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Mar 28, 2014

An Heir of Uncertainty by Alyssa Everett

Friday, March 28, 2014
Suspenseful romance with intriguing elements..
An Heir of Uncertainty by Alyssa Everett
Carina Press ebook, March 2014
Review egalley provided by publisher in exchange for honest review for Library Journal Xpress Reviews
Burton Book Review Rating:Four Stars

Yorkshire, 1820

Lina, Lady Radbourne, thought being a countess would rescue her from poverty. Unfortunately, her young groom failed to plan for the future, and his drunken accident left her widowed and pregnant. Now Colonel Winstead Vaughan—Win—will inherit her late husband’s fortune…unless she gives birth to a boy. Win is her natural enemy, so why can’t she stop thinking about him?

Win is stunned to learn he stands to inherit a vast fortune. He’s even more surprised to find himself falling for the beautiful, spirited Lady Radbourne, who is the one woman who stands in the way of a life he’d only imagined.

When someone tries to poison Lady Radbourne, suspicion falls on Win. There’s a clever killer in their midst, and if Win doesn’t solve the mystery fast, Lina may perish. He needs to win her trust, but how can he prove it’s she he wants, and not the fortune?

Everett crafts an intriguing tale of romance and suspense set against a deceivingly quaint Yorkshire estate. Lady Radbourne's young husband passes away while she is still with child and her future depends on whether it is a boy or a girl. If it's a girl, the estate passes on to Win Vaughn who never imagined he could achieve the title of Lord Radbourne. The title would be a boon to him due to his failing estate and also providing for family members. When Lady Radbourne and Win meet, they realize they are kindred spirits as both are after the same thing, which is to merely survive long enough to find out who can be out to harm the two potential Radbourne Estate owners.

Both a character and plot driven story, there is a lot going on in this historical romance. With clever twists and misdirections, we can only guess at the villain's identity and the climax is done well. Speaking of climax, there is a large dose of sexual passion in one particular scene and just a few other “added for emphasis” romantic scenes, but the overall story was well done and kept me turning the pages. I wouldn't mind revisiting these very likable set of characters, especially Win's apparently ADHD brother.

Mar 24, 2014

The Quaker and The Rebel by Mary Ellis

Monday, March 24, 2014
Intriguing Civil War romance with villains!
The Quaker and The Rebel by Mary Ellis
Harvest House Publishers; January 2014
$13.99; pb; 352pp; 9780736958508
Review copy provided by the publisher for review in the February 2014 Historical Novel Society magazine
Burton Book Review Rating: 4 stars

Bestselling author Mary Ellis presents book one of her brand-new Civil War historical romance series, which tells the stories of brave women in times of testing and the men who love them.
Emily Harrison's life has been turned upside down. At the beginning of the Civil War, she bravely attempted to continue her parents' work as conductors in the Underground Railroad until their Ohio farm was sold in foreclosure. Now alone, she accepts a position as a governess with a doctor's family in slave-holding Virginia. Perhaps she can continue her rescue efforts from there.
Alexander Hunt is the doctor's handsome nephew. While he does not deny a growing attraction to his uncle's newest employee, he cannot take time to pursue Emily. Alex is not at all what he seems--rich, spoiled, and indolent. He is the elusive Gray Wraith, a Quaker leader of Rebel partisans. A man of the shadows, he carries no firearm and wholeheartedly believes in Emily's antislavery convictions.
The path before Alex and Emily is complicated and sometimes life threatening. The war brings betrayal, entrapment, and danger to both of them. Amid their growing feelings for each other, can they find faith in God amid the challenges they face and trust in the possibility for a bright future together?

The traditional storyline of a romance blossoming between a Confederate and a Unionist is made unique with Emily working with the Underground Railroad movement. Meanwhile, Alexander disguises himself as a sort of Robin Hood stealing provisions from Union soldiers to benefit the Confederate soldiers and neither person knows the other's secret as they fall in love with each other.

This Civil War story is set in Virginia as it struggles with dividing views regarding slavery and war causing Virginia to split into two states. Alexander played a wonderful hero as Emily's character became more likable as pieces of her past were revealed throughout the story, though her role as a governess seems a bit far-fetched due to her uncouth manners and rash actions. The author chose to space out events with an authentic time line and added a bit of villainy as well. If you look hard enough the reader might notice an undercurrent of a spirituality aspect but it was not focused upon. Pick this one up if you are looking for an intriguing romance set during the early 1860's...don't let the silly cover dissuade you.

Mar 21, 2014

Abraham and Sarah by Roberta Kells Dorr

Friday, March 21, 2014
A well-known biblical story is brought to vivid life

Abraham and Sarah by Roberta Kells Dorr
Moody Publishers; March 2014 reissue; originally pub 1995
$9.99 pb 272pp; 9780802409577
Review copy provided by the publisher for review in the February 2014 Historical Novel Society magazine
Burton Book Review Rating: 3.5 Stars

A splendid exploration of faith against great odds and love that endures years of disappointment.
Abraham and Sarah is a masterful historical drama from the moment that Abraham strides into the pagan temple to rescue Sarah. The couple set out in search of the blessings God had promised: abundant fertile land and decedents more plentiful than the stars.
But years of wandering bring the couple to Egypt where once again Abraham convinces Sarah that as sister and brother surely they will pass safely through the territory. But Pharaoh takes Sarah into his harem where she befriends Pharaoh's daughter, Hagar. Together the three are ordered to leave.
Years of barrenness have embittered Sarah and she hatches a plan: Hagar must become the vessel for the child God has promised. Ishmael is born to Hagar and so is jealousy born in Sarah's heart. But God had a plan and He was right all along. This miracle unfolds with Historical authenticity leaving the reader with a better understanding of the ancient world and the life-changing faith of Abraham and Sarah.

In this biblical novel featuring the first patriarch and matriarch Abraham and Sarah the author glazes through the accepted storyline in Genesis but fills in the blanks with skillful storytelling. Beginning with Abram's family with Sarai as his half-sister we follow the events in the character's lives as they marry and travel throughout the Holy Land.

With a supporting cast of characters such as Lot and his wife Mara, Hagar the Egyptian who becomes the mother of Abraham's son Ishmael, readers of the Bible will appreciate the novelization as it adds more context to the actual events depicted in Genesis. The best feature of this story were the characters as Dorr has portrayed them: selfish, jealous, envious and overall flawed. Hope and redemption comes along later but the the dramatic events beforehand helps one to appreciate the plights of our religious ancestors.

Readers looking for an obvious connection to God will be disappointed in the first half as it takes a while for Abraham's destiny to take shape. It is a mix of examination of beliefs of various gods vs. Abraham's God the Elohim who does start to take shape in the latter half. The author portrays her biblical knowledge well in all her novels, and this was no exception. The slight variations to the Bible were intriguing and well done and came across as a bit more realistic. Recommended for biblical fiction lovers.

Mar 19, 2014

The Devil Walks In Mattingly by Billy Coffey

Wednesday, March 19, 2014
An unforgettable plotline that pulls you in!

The Devil Walks In Mattingly by Billy Coffey
Purchase a copy:
Thomas Nelson, March 2014
Contemporary Christian  Suspense
Review copy provided by LitFuse, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating: 4 stars
For the three people tortured by their secret complicity in a young man's untimely death, redemption is what they most long for . . . and the last thing they expect to receive. It has been twenty years since Philip McBride's body was found along the riverbank in the dark woods known as Happy Hollow. His death was ruled a suicide. But three people have carried the truth ever since--Philip didn't kill himself that day. He was murdered.
Each of the three have wilted in the shadow of their sins. Jake Barnett is Mattingly's sheriff, where he spends his days polishing the fragile shell of the man he pretends to be. His wife, Kate, has convinced herself the good she does for the poor will someday wash the blood from her hands. And high in the mountains, Taylor Hathcock lives in seclusion and fear, fueled by madness and hatred.
Yet what cannot be laid to rest is bound to rise again. Philip McBride has haunted Jake's dreams for weeks, warning that he is coming back for them all. When Taylor finds mysterious footprints leading from the Hollow, he believes his redemption has come. His actions will plunge the quiet town of Mattingly into darkness. These three will be drawn together for a final confrontation between life and death . . . between truth and lies.
(2018 update: I have since bought several of Billy Coffey's titles after this one! Wonderful author)

Billy Coffey is a new-to-me author and a writer of contemporary fiction which I tend to shy away from. After seeing this novel several times over and being intrigued by the synopsis, once it was offered for review I knew I needed to give it a try. The synopsis itself is full of innuendos and hidden meanings that beg the reader to dig deeper, and the story reads the same way. There is a sinister thing lurking in the midst of the quaint country town of Mattingly, and it seems to come from that place Happy Hollow that no one goes to. That is, if you want to come out alive.

Jake Barnett and his wife Kate are pinnacles of country society all the while trying to make up for a past event that had gone horribly wrong. They carry their hurts internally, and the reader isn't privy to that full horror of the event that caused such a rift in their lives until it seems the devil does indeed come to Mattingly.

Full of interesting characters from moonshining men, estranged fathers, dead souls and a man living in the woods for the past twenty years the story takes the reader on a strange twisting journey as we follow Jake and Kate (the good ones?) and Taylor and Lucy (the bad ones?) and watch worlds collide. And beneath it all is the memory of Phillip McBride, the dead boy who links them. It did take a while for the pieces of the story to connect which could be construed as a slow start, but the rhythmic writing style eventually weaves its spell and draws you in. The plot becomes slightly mind-bending and it borders on thriller, so fans of mysteries and suspense should enjoy this one. There are several themes touched upon from spirituality and forgiveness as these characters all seek their ultimate redemption. Very intriguing plot unlike any I had read!

Billy Coffey is celebrating his new book, The Devil Walks in Mattingly, with a Kindle Fire HDX giveaway (CLOSED)!
  One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire HDX
  • The Devil Walks in Mattingly by Billy Coffey
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on April 5th. Winner will be announced April  7th on Billy's blog.
 Watch Billy give the backstory of the book here.

Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to stop by Billy's blog on April 7th 2014 to see if you won.

Mar 14, 2014

Tide and Tempest by Elizabeth Ludwig

Friday, March 14, 2014
Danger in dark alleys and handsome heroes!

Tide and Tempest (Edge of Freedom #3) by Elizabeth Ludwig
Bethany House, March 4, 2014
Historical Christian Suspense
eGalley from NetGalley
Burton Book Review Rating: 4.5 stars

(Read my reviews of the previous novels in this series)

Two years ago, her fiance perished during their voyage to America.

Now she discovers it may have been murder...

Dreaming of a better life, Tillie McGrath leaves Ireland behind and, with her beloved fiance by her side, sets sail for America. But when illness robs her of the man she holds dear, she's left alone with only a handful of tattered memories. While forging on proves difficult, Tillie soon finds some new friends at her New York boardinghouse, and begins pursuing a new dream--to open a home for orphaned children.

Despite two years passing, Captain Keondric Morgan has never forgotten the lass who left his ship so heartbroken. When a crewman's deathbed confession reveals her fiance's demise was the result of murder, the captain knows he must try to contact her. But his attention draws the notice of others as well--dangerous men who believe Tillie has in her possession something that could expose their crimes. And to their way of thinking, the best way to prevent such an outcome is to seize the evidence and then hand Tillie the same fate as her naïve fiance.

Having loved Ludwig's last two novels in this series, I knew I would love this one! The only thing disappointing was the NetGalley version was missing the letter f's in words such as 'stiffened' and 'difficult' and many others throughout, and still I managed to really enjoy the book. That is testament to a good story, people! I loved the setting where once again we are transported back in time to the old time New York where it seems Irishmen are a dime a dozen. They are a mixture of good and evil, and you never knew who to trust when it comes to the Fenians.

Our heroine Tillie was a member of the boardinghouse in the last book when we met her as a grieving waif-like of a girl and Captain Morgan feels responsible for her loved one's death aboard his ship. He begins to realize that there are many mysteries that begin to twist around him that all lead back to that first death on his ship. Tillie is a target, and Morgan and his brother are determined to protect Tillie as she has no one else in New York to do so.

Though the previous characters are supporting of the big picture and we are focused on another set of new characters with this intriguing Irish in America tale there is a lot of a political slant with many different names to sort through. If you haven't read the first two in the series then this book may be a bit confusing to understand when it comes to the Fenians and their movement. If you have kept up with the series, this next installment won't disappoint as the writing style is fluid and fast paced. Though I would have liked a bit more details of the previous characters (Ana and Cara are simply mentioned), the story holds its own and makes reading it worthwhile. The faith theme is tiny and barely noticeable as it focuses on Morgan's sacrifice, and while there is a lot of love for our main characters I would have enjoyed a bit more on brother Cass and have to wonder if there is another book coming in the series. It seems that since the big picture of the Celt is finally cleared up this may be the last one but we can always hope!

Here I am getting a picture with the author after I had her sign some of her books for me!

Mar 12, 2014

The Ransom by MaryLu Tyndall

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Ransom (The Legacy of the King's Pirates #4) by MaryLu Tyndall
Christian Historical Romance
Published February 27, 2014
Kindle edition $5.99
Review copy provided by the author
Burton Book Review Rating: 4.5 stars

(Read my previous reviews of some of MaryLu Tyndall's books here)

Port Royal, Jamaica 1692
Living in a city deemed the wickedest in the world is no easy task for Miss Juliana Dutton. To make matters worse, with an ailing father and a drunken fool for a brother, she is forced to take over the running of the family business in order to survive. When a meddlesome suitor threatens to discover her secret and cast them all onto the streets, she agrees to a spurious engagement with the town buffoon, Lord Munthrope. She only hopes the man is trustworthy.

Alexander Hyde, son of the infamous Captain Edmund Merrick Hyde, is the most feared pirate in Port Royal. Disillusioned with the religion of his parents and the pleasures of the world, Alex staves off his emptiness by leading a dual life as both the pretentious dandy, Lord Munthrope, and the feared Pirate Earl.

A long-time enemy is out to destroy Alex and take Juliana for his own. Yet could their problems be a Divine hand leading them down a path of escape? Or when an earthquake strikes, will they be doomed with the rest of Port Royal to be swallowed up by the sea?
Even though I have not had the pleasure of reading the previous pirate-themed novels in this series, I was more than eager to review this fourth installment as I had already thoroughly enjoyed some of MaryLu Tyndall's other works. And I was so pleased that I could jump right into the story line and not be confused as this is book number four. Definitely easily read as a stand alone, I am looking forward to reading the previous novels, too! There are some mentions here and there that would refer to those previous events which helped intrigue me about their own stories.

For now, we focus on Alexander Hyde and his disguise as a silly leapin' lord, and on his better days, as a Robin Hood-style Pirate Earl. Yes, that's two identities to our Alexander, but which one is the real Alexander? And are sexy pirates to be trusted? He certainly seems more attractive than the over-the-top eccentric patch-wearing Lord Munthrope! Our leading lady Juliana comes across Munny and then comes across Pirate Earl and then betroths herself to one of them in order to fend off another suitor, but will Juliana fall in love with the wrong persona? She has no choice but to see what lays ahead as circumstances fly far beyond her control as she realizes her good-for-nothing brother is gambling away all the family cash as their father lay dying. She could try and run her father's shipping company, but she has to do it without anyone knowing, since a woman doing anything other than looking pretty is a huge no-no in their fancy Port Royal society.

Alexander wants nothing more but to shed either one of his alter-egos, but he has taken his wicked schemes too far and there is no turning back. He hasn't made a lot of enemies as Lord Munthrope, but he is certainly making no friends as a Pirate. And if Juliana finds out he is behind the looting of her own father's ships, all hope will be lost for both of them.

The novel is action packed and full of adventures both on and off the sea and features well-developed characters. Alexander and Juliana remain true to form throughout and the supporting characters helped create the tension and atmosphere of both frollicking and fear as things start to get serious when Juliana's previous suitor is determined to have her at any cost. I loved the intertwining themes of piracy and redemption, love and grief, and always with Tyndall's works is the undercurrent of spirituality. I recommend this to historical romance lovers who would enjoy a hunky pirate in their midst!

Mar 9, 2014

In Defense of Son of God by Roma Downey, Mark Burnett

Sunday, March 09, 2014
This tie-in book is a quicker read as opposed to the film series

Son of God by Roma Downey, Mark Burnett
Published February 18th 2014 by FaithWords
Paperback, 160 pages
eGalley offered through NetGalley
Burton Book Review Rating: 4 stars

The book Son of God is a tie-in with the major motion picture of the same title, slated for wide theatrical release (through 20th-Century Fox) on February 28, 2014. Like the movie, the book possesses an epic scope, providing a panoramic picture of first-century Judea as it recounts the events and reveals the meaning of Jesus's life, death, and resurrection.

Though based on New Testament accounts, including the four Gospels as well as the book of Acts, Son of God reads like a contemporary novel, delving deeply into the character of Jesus and the personalities and motives all of those who surround him, both his followers and his enemies. Even minor Gospel characters (Mary Magdelene, the servant Malchus, the Jewish elder Nicodemus) come vividly to life in the book, and its portrayal of the political machinations behind Jesus's trial and death-the contest for power between the Roman governor Pontius Pilate and the high priest Caiaphas-is especially engaging.

Beyond depicting the historical milieu in which Jesus lived, Son of God deftly explains the customs and culture of the Jewish people and the Roman officials and soldiers who oppress them, enhancing readers' understanding of the biblical record. In its final part, the book extends the Christian story past Jesus's resurrection to show how Jesus's followers, impassioned by their faith, began spreading his message of salvation throughout the wider world. Grittily realistic, Son of God pulls no punches in conveying the harsh realities of Jesus's era. But it is also inspirational, showing how Jesus transformed the lives of the humble and the powerful alike-and conveying Jesus's message of comfort and hope to present-day readers.

This book is a short one at 160 pages, and created as a tie-in for the Son of God film that released this season in theaters. For my fellow History Channel viewers, you may remember The Bible mini-series that came out during the Lenten season last year. Son Of God is created from that series, just skipping through the Old Testament chapters and straight to the life of Jesus. I watched the show last year and cried myself through several scenes, so when I heard Son Of God was coming out this year I was overjoyed. Then when I started reading this book, I realized it was just a re-do of the same series as last year (minus some scenes like the Obama lookalike Satan) and was disappointed it wasn't entirely new. Since the book being reviewed here is distinctly about a specific film, it is going to be hard to distinguish between the two mediums, so you'll just have to bear with my thought process.

The book starts off a bit stunted, with small dividers between the text as it was switching scenes. As I was reading the text I could easily re-imagine these scenes in my mind from what I remember from the previous year. It is certainly no literary masterpiece, and at 160 pages compared to what the huge expanse the actual Bible is, well you could hardly compare the two. Son of God is a dramatization, a retelling, an interpretation, and there is only so much time a movie script would allow for. I am sure theologians, priests, historians can nit-pick the book/series/film and point out some discrepancies and quote the scripture from their favorite version of the Bible that the film somehow misportrays.. since the world has argued over religion for the last two thousand years why should we stop now, right?

"Paul is alone. For nearly three decades he has preached the Word of God. It has been a hard life, full of deprivation and suffering. Yet in all the chaos and carnage that has marked the growth of the Christian church, Paul knows that the Word will survive him. The Word is love."

Once upon a time, there was Adam and Eve. But yet, there was also a lady named Lilith (or WAS there?), and then there are all those Lost Books. Realistically speaking, one could argue against the merits of this dramatization as it is not word for word Scripture based; that same 'sacred' scripture that a select few decided to include in the Holy Bible as they ignored other historical texts written in biblical times. Blasphemous is a word too easily used in this day and age when we should embrace tolerance. I don't quote scripture, I am no expert, but I have faith. I was raised Roman Catholic, I am raising my children as American Old Catholics and there are good parts of doctrine I adhere to and others perhaps not so whole-heartedly. It is my faith, and mine alone, and let no man put that asunder. I enjoyed having a new 'modern' text to read as it brings me closer to the love of Jesus's testimony. If you don't want to have Jesus in your life, this is not the book for you. If you enjoy reading/watching new interpretations or maybe see this as a worthy excuse for entertainment as opposed to another repeat of Pawn Stars, I recommend it. If you enjoyed the Bible mini-series last year and would like a quick reminder of the gorgeous Jesus scenes, here is your chance.

Additionally, in a world where we get to watch the evil of the world through the nightly news, and then watch a comedy, reality show, violent movie or cartoons - perhaps a little Son of God on the boob tube would do us some good. It's about the message - not the exact interpretation as you see it/believe it. Take from it what you will, let you become inspired by whatever it is you take from it - hope, faith, charity and forgiveness being possible - and relish the fact that once a year there is something faith based being shown on the television/big screen and just enjoy it instead of showing the world how much better you are. If you could do a better movie, please do. I'll be waiting.

I feel that Christians are persecuted so much more via social media as keyboard warriors spout their hatred because someone has hurt them previously and they lash out against religion in general. Stop expecting human beings to be perfect and stop believing that all Christians are alike. Step off your atheist soap box and take a chill pill. Step way from your electronic device and go outside and recognize the beauty of God's creations -- or scientifically evolved creations -- and stop being so disparaging to your fellow man. All lives matter. Yours and mine. And we have freedom of speech and religion, but don't think your views are better than mine.

Mar 6, 2014

Desiring Lady Caro by Ella Quinn

Thursday, March 06, 2014
Spicy fun while fleeing a vicious marquis of Venice!
Desiring Lady Caro by Ella Quinn
eKensington original April 3, 2014
Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for review at Library Journal Xpress 
Burton Book Review Rating:4 stars

Haunted by her past, Lady Caroline Martindale fled England for the solace of her godmother's palazzo in Venice. But if Caro was hoping to escape the charms of marriage-minded men, she's come to the wrong place. And she'll resort to extreme measures to spurn the advances of a dangerously determined Venetian marquis...

Though most of his friends have married off, Gervais, Earl of Huntley, remains bent on eluding the parson's mousetrap. But his convictions begin to falter when he arrives in Venice and meets his match in the alluring Lady Caro. What began as a hastily concocted lie to save her from the marquis may become a chance for them both to relinquish their fear - and embrace what they can no longer deny...

The Earl of Huntley and his Aunt Horatia's young lady companion have no idea how their lives will change as their two worlds collide. Out of a sense of chivalry (and taste for adventure) Huntley shields the Lady Caro from a vicious marquis as they flee from Venice by horse drawn carriages to escape her potential abduction. Huntley's and Caro's attraction to each other is quite mutual and sparks fly as they make their way from Italy to France. They sample exquisite food and each other yet neither one wants to be the first to say 'I love you'. Huntley is quite patient with Caro as he deals with her past hurts, and he will easily make any lady swoon just as easily as he did Lady Caro despite her weak protests. Easily can be read as a stand alone.

A very spicy romance with a likable set of characters with a thrilling sense of danger lurking around the corner. The intriguing plot makes the pages turn swiftly though sometimes the flow seemed to miss a beat from one thought to the next. Even though the sexual tension was the heart of the story, there was still enough to the story to endear us to Huntley and Caro. The sudden side story Lady Horatia's own love affair was jarring and acted as unnecessary filler- though either passionate journey is one one any lady would love to partake. I recommend Desiring Lady Caro as a perfectly sensual romance to prepare yourself for your own hero.