God Will Make You Whole: A Book Review of Jan Drexler’s “Softly Blows the Bugle”

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Amish fiction is a somewhat newer subgenre of Christian fiction for me, one that I’ve been reading for only a few years. Growing up about an hour and a half from Ohio Amish Country and visiting there often, I had some familiarity with the culture, and reading well-researched novels has offered additional insight. I do, however, find Amish historical fiction to be just as fascinating. This series is the first that I’ve ever read about the Amish during the Civil War era, and this third book especially sheds light on the unique impacts on their communities.

In Jan Drexler’s Softly Blows the Bugle, book three of The Amish of Weaver’s Creek, the Civil War has recently ended, and Jonas Weaver returns home. With him is Aaron Zook, a former Confederate soldier who lost his leg in battle and his faith when his mother died years earlier. Two generations removed from his Amish heritage, he is determined to head west to escape all that he’s lost; likewise, Jonas’s sister, Elizabeth Kaufman, struggles under the burden of her own tainted past. When a stranger arrives in town, he may hold the key to helping them both move on.

While this book can be read as a standalone, I would encourage readers to go through the series in order for the most fulfilling experience and to meet all of the main characters in depth. Each story makes more of an emotional impact if readers understand the background. The Weaver’s Creek community, by and large, serves as an example of what the body of Christ is meant to be: welcoming and loving, without compromising its convictions. The kinship is so heartwarming; despite his previous sympathies and being an Englischer, Aaron finds loving care and acceptance, which in turn allows for healing of more than just his physical body. In a similar manner, the Amish response to slavery and segregation plays out through interactions with the former slave named Dulcey. Another interesting aspect of this story is the disagreement between the Weaver’s Creek traditionalists and the more liberal Amish from other districts. In so many ways, these kinds of situations and issues reflect what we are dealing with today, reminding us that everyone has hardships and struggles, and that we are not as different from each other as we may seem.

Redemption and second chances are themes heavily interwoven into Softly Blows the Bugle. Drexler takes her characters through the emotions and doubts of the journey to forgiveness and to surrendering to God, and one of the beautiful facets of it is how God can use other people to draw the hurting to Himself. As Aaron begins to realize, “Grandpop had always told him that the Amish were high and mighty, bragging about their special place in God’s eyes, but Elizabeth didn’t seem to be like that at all. Her whisper…maybe he wasn’t meant to hear it…but her whisper betrayed a brokenness as deep as his own.” With brokenness comes pain and messy situations; sensitive readers may want to be forewarned that there are a few brief scenes of violence and brief discussions about past trauma. In my opinion, they are not graphic and do fit in with the time period and plot. There is one scene that stretched credulity for me, but it didn’t detract from the story overall. I think that Casper Zook says it best: “No man is whole when he is by himself. All of us are broken on the inside until we find our place with God—broken, sore, and weary. Your brokenness is visible, but the solution is the same as it is for any other man. God will make you whole.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell and was under no obligation to post a positive review. All opinions are my own.

My rating: 5 stars ♥♥♥♥♥

Buy your copy HERE

How Do I Love Thee: A Book Review of Joanna Davidson Politano’s “The Love Note”

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I’ll be honest. I almost didn’t request this title. The vintage cover drew me in, though, and a fleeting glimpse at the synopsis made it sound promising, so even though I’m not much of a romance reader, I decided to give it a chance. Oh my word. I am fairly certain that this is going to be my favorite new release of 2020, and most likely the best fictional romance (historical or otherwise) that I’ve read to date. Very rarely, if ever, do I use the word “swoon-worthy,” but I have to say, this book fits that description perfectly, while also being tempestuous and haunting.

The Love Note is the first of Joanna Politano’s novels that I’ve read, despite her previous works being on my to-read list, and I now find myself wondering why I waited so long! From the first chapter, I was engaged in the story, and unlike so many others, this is one that does not lag at any point. Politano seamlessly blends an assortment of genres that keeps readers on their toes: romance, mystery, history, spirituality. As the final third of the story unfolds, the twists are so beautifully executed for maximum impact, right through the final chapter. Willa Duvall herself proclaims early on: “I had been right all along—the letter I’d found in that desk was a piece of something much larger, a story more epic than mere romance.” Nothing is clear-cut until the ending, and I love that! What’s more, Politano meaningfully brings all of the storylines together into one glorious whole.

With echoes of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, The Love Note reads like a classic. Politano’s writing style reflects that of the nineteenth century but is free of antiquated words or phrases, thereby making this an easy-to-read book. That is not to say, however, that no hard issues arise within the story. On the contrary, for all of the romance, there is also a fair share of tragedy, as Willa notes immediately: “but I couldn’t shake the tenor of underlying romance lurking in the shadows of this house. It was there, pulsing and sweeping through like a ghost, even if everyone attempted to stifle and deny it.” Through characters such as Celeste, Willa, and Aunt Maisie (a personal favorite), the importance of using one’s voice for encouraging others and the significance of women’s rights is subtly explored. Pithy epigraphs called “A scientist’s observations on love” open each chapter, and a shifting narrative voice allows for the exploration of multiple points of view. The majority of the narrative is comprised of Willa’s story as told by the character herself in the first person, and occasionally another character with whom her story intersects provides a third-person account of something happening to them. Even as readers privileged with this omniscience, though, the surprises are astounding.

As with any Christian-based novel, the best attribute is transformation, and The Love Note achieves this remarkably well. Remarkably because the characters change their hearts and attitudes in spite of their fear and in spite of the leap of faith needed to do so. Willa realizes this in her own quest, remarking, “What makes the past so intriguing, anyway? Perhaps because understanding those stories that so enchant us, those ghostly echoes of long-ago mistakes and passions, means untangling the present and changing the future.” May we glean wisdom from the past as we all strive toward the bright future that awaits us as believers in Christ.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell and was under no obligation to post a positive review. All opinions are my own.

My rating: 5 stars ♥♥♥♥♥

Buy your copy HERE

Saving Mount Rushmore Review and GIVEAWAY!

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About the Book

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Book: Saving Mount Rushmore

Author: Andrea Jo Rodgers

Genre: Middle grade fiction

Release Date: April 15, 2018

When John Jenkins’ parents ship him off to stay with his aunt, he’s certain it will be the worst summer ever—until he learns he’s been accepted into a top-secret school. St. Michael’s Academy is home to gifted students with extraordinary talents. Although John has no idea why he’s there, he’s assigned to Team Liberty, who assist authorities with solving low-level crimes. Their first mission: stop a trio of mischief-making teens from vandalizing Mount Rushmore. John battles feelings of inferiority as he and Team Liberty compete against Devlin Black and his cronies to track down clues and solve puzzles at Mount Rushmore. Along the way, John makes several key contributions, and his self-confidence grows. When he discovers he was admitted to the school due to a clerical error, he’s mortified. Now, he’s strictly an “observer” until the mission’s end. But when his teammates run into trouble, John must summon up the courage to save Mount Rushmore, and he learns an invaluable lesson: every person has special God-given gifts—including him.

Click HERE to get your copy!

About the Author

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Andrea Jo Rodgers is the author of award-winning Christian middle grade fiction as well as inspirational adult nonfiction novels. She holds a clinical doctorate in physical therapy and specializes in women’s health, orthopedics, and lymphedema. She has served her community as a volunteer emergency medical technician for over thirty years, responding to more than 8,200 first aid and fire calls. She lives on the east coast with her husband, two children, and their two rescue dogs, a Shih Tzu and a Dachshund.

More from Andrea

Can John embrace his God-given gifts in time to save Mount Rushmore?

Have you ever admired the extraordinary talent of another person? Perhaps you enjoyed listening to someone belt out a spellbinding rendition of your favorite song at church or a concert. Or, maybe you have dreamed that you’d gain the same athletic prowess of a professional sports player.

The amazing gifts of others can take many forms. These gifts may be linked with intelligence, such as an aptitude for math and engineering. They may reflect the beauty of the arts through singing, dancing, or painting. Certain individuals may dazzle the people around them with incredible athletic talents, from gold-medal Olympians to professional baseball, football, and basketball players.

Most people consider extraordinary talents to be God-given gifts. They allow people to stand out and shine among others. However, do each of us need a breathtaking talent to be considered special?

In Saving Mount Rushmore, John Jenkins, an awkward thirteen-year-old teenager, is unexpectedly chosen to attend Saint Michael the Archangel Academy. The top-secret school’s mission is to protect our nation by assisting authorities in solving crimes. Since the academy is for students with extraordinary abilities, John is puzzled as to why he’s been accepted. After all, he’s an average teen without any notable gifts.

While working with Team Liberty to save Mount Rushmore from Devlin Black and Team Mischief, John struggles to discover his special gifts. He’s mortified when he discovers that he’s been accepted to the academy due to a clerical error. He becomes strictly an “observer” until the mission’s end. But when his teammates run into trouble, John must summon up the courage to try to save Mount Rushmore. He learns that every person has special God-given gifts—including him.

I came up with the idea for Saving Mount Rushmore while in the airport, just before our plane departed for the famous landmark. I wrote feverishly the entire flight, and the first chapters were born. Saving Mount Rushmore is a middle grade novel which combines information about Mount Rushmore, adventure, and Christian values. My goal was to write an exciting, fun, educational book for middle grade readers that incorporates Christian values into the fabric of the story. John and his friends have an opportunity to save another national monument in the sequel, Saving the Statue of Liberty. I hope you celebrate our country’s heritage by joining John and Team Liberty in their adventures.

My Review

For God and Country.

Going into Saving Mount Rushmore, I had no idea what it was about aside from the obvious location and the fact that it was a middle-grade novel. While reading, I kept asking myself if I would have enjoyed it had I been the target age group, and I think that I would have due to the historical connection. The idea of going on secret spy missions provided plenty of fodder for the imagination when I was growing up, and reading this book made me feel, in some ways, like a kid again. Author Andrea Jo Rodgers does a nice job with the main cast of characters, starting with 13-year-old John Jenkins, who will be spending the summer at his great-aunt Martha’s Winding River Ranch. I felt the most kinship with Annabelle the bookworm, and also with the shyness of John himself.

This is a good book for illustrating how we can work together to achieve a common goal. St. Michael’s Archangel Academy is “a top-secret school that helps authorities fight crime” in the words of Aunt Martha, and each of the students has a special gift. Except for John, who does not know if he has a gift or what it might be. How the other kids in his assigned group, Team Liberty, respond with complete acceptance and support is heartwarming and encouraging in a society that far too often teems with bullies. Similarly, Shaniqua and her stressful home life evoke her fellow members’ empathy. So refreshing! To keep things from becoming too idealistic, there are villains, too, in the form of other kids who do their best to foil Team Liberty’s mission. As a bit of an aside, I would like to comment on the seemingly negligent adults, with the exception of Aunt Martha, because it does irk me. John’s parents are too busy to take time for him on a normal day, and they do not seem to prioritize their kids, while Mr. Jorgenson seems rather indifferent and callous.

One of the things that drew me to this book in the first place is that it is written from a Christian worldview, as evidenced in the series title. God is mentioned a few times throughout the book, and on one occasion John offers a prayer for a meal he shares with his aunt and the ranch foreman, but faith does not seem to be as integral a topic as I thought that it would. I had been hoping for more, but this is book one of the series, so maybe the second book contains more specifically Christian content.

If you’re looking for a realistic, true-to-life middle-grade story, this book isn’t it. But if you can suspend your disbelief and enjoy a tale that mixes an authentic American landmark with a dash of fantasy and the adventure of being a kid, then Saving Mount Rushmore is worth checking out.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Celebrate Lit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.

My rating: 4 stars ♥♥♥♥

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, November 18

For the Love of Literature, November 18

The Avid Reader, November 19

Texas Book-aholic, November 20

21st Century Keeper at Home, November 20

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, November 21

For Him and My Family, November 22

Mary Hake, November 22

Older & Smarter?, November 23

Library Lady’s Kid Lit, November 23

Inklings and notions, November 24

Locks, Hooks and Books, November 25

Sara Jane Jacobs, November 25

Vicky Sluiter, November 26

deb’s Book Review, November 27

Simple Harvest Reads, November 27 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)

Ashley’s Bookshelf, November 28

Artistic Nobody, November 29 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)

Captive Dreams Window, November 29

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, November 30

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, December 1

Blossoms and Blessings, December 1

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Andrea is giving away the grand prize package of a signed copy of Saving Mount Rushmore: Saint Michael the Archangel Academy, Mission 1 as well as a $25 Amazon gift card!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/103a5/saving-mount-rushmore-celebration-tour-giveaway

A Home Where the Buffalo Roam: A Book Review of Regina Scott’s “Nothing Short of Wondrous”

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She laid her head against his chest, as if listening to the sound of his heart. And his heart, the heart he’d buried eight years ago in Oregon, beat harder. For her.

Wyoming is one state that I’ve always wanted to visit. In my mind I always picture it as a place of forested wilderness because my grandpap worked in the Civilian Conservation Corps there in the 1930s. Reading about Yellowstone National Park and the incredible terrain of the surrounding area somewhat surprised me. It isn’t a place that I would feel comfortable living in, at least not as it is in the novel, but I do think that it would make for an unforgettable visit, and I certainly enjoyed the time I spent there with the characters in this story.

Aptly named Nothing Short of Wondrous, this second book in Regina Scott’s American Wonders Collection, which can be read as a standalone, plunges readers into life at Yellowstone about 14 years after it has been recognized as a national park. Featuring a young, widowed proprietor named Kate Tremaine, Scott brings to light the challenges of maintaining the integrity and purity of the land and wildlife, particularly the bison, a task given to the U.S. Cavalry. Determined to protect her home and her son through her livelihood, Kate agrees to serve as a guide to the soldiers, including Lieutenant William Prescott, whose past haunts him. As they work together through several harrowing situations, they both begin to heal from the guilt that has caused each to shutter their heart.

As much as I admire and love the main characters, the story would not be as fun or as complete without the secondary cast. There is seven-year-old Danny, of course, and the selectively mute but courageous Caleb. My personal favorites are Mrs. Pettijohn and Miss Pringle, spirited sisters who encourage and add light humor to just about every situation. There are a few characters whose motives I questioned, and I will leave it to fellow readers to tease out their own theories about these.

Within the pages of this novel lies a message that resounds clearly in these chaotic days: that God alone is in control. No matter how much we plan and prepare, the unexpected is an inevitability. That is why we need to mature in our faith, spend time with God in His Word, and truly come to know Him, because when we do, we can rest assured that He knows the end from the beginning and that nothing will ever happen outside of His will. As Kate remarks, “I’m learning that God wants to hear from us. He wants to hear from you too.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell and was under no obligation to post a positive review. All opinions are my own.

My rating: 5 stars ♥♥♥♥♥

Buy your copy HERE

Mountain of Peril Review and GIVEAWAY!

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About the Book

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Book: Mountain of Peril

Author: J. Carol Nemeth

Genre: Christian Romantic Suspense

Release Date: January 25, 2018

When Molly Walker graduated from college, she was thrilled to be hired on as a ranger at Deep Creek Campground in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. She arrived ready to begin her career and to enjoy all the aspects of her new job, but the one thing she hadn’t counted on was the local poachers and their illegal shenanigans. Molly and fellow ranger Jake Stuart try to put a stop to the escalating poaching problem while protecting the animals. In the meantime, Molly finds the handsome ranger, who is also a local, is a great partner to have on her side. She also finds she’s losing her heart to him when she’d planned to stay focused on her career. Can she give her heart and have a career? She and Jake find themselves in a battle against a group of men with a hidden agenda far more sinister than poaching. Can they be stopped before Molly’s life is snuffed out?

Molly and Jake are in a battle against a group of men with a hidden agenda far more sinister than poaching. Can they be stopped before Molly’s life is snuffed out?

Click HERE to get your copy!

About the Author

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A native North Carolinian, J. Carol Nemeth has always loved reading and enjoyed making up stories since junior high school, most based in the places she has lived or traveled to. She worked in the National Park Service as a Park Aid and served in the US Army where she was stationed in Italy, traveling to over thirteen countries while there. She met the love of her life, Mark Nemeth, also an Army veteran, while stationed in Italy. After they married, they lived in various locations, including North Yorkshire, England. They now live in West Virginia, where, in their spare time, Carol and Mark enjoy RVing, sightseeing and are active in their church. They have a son, Matt, who serves active duty Army, a daughter, Jennifer, her husband Flint, who serves active duty Air Force, and three grandchildren, Martin, Ava and Gage. Their four-footed kid, Holly, a black Lab, loves traveling in their RV, and when they pack up to go, she’s waiting inside for them to head out.

More from J. Carol

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I worked for the National Park Service at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park many moons ago before I met my husband. The setting for Mountain of Peril, Faith in the Parks Book 1 is in that park. I met a lot of interesting people and there was never dull moment. Something was always happening. I was either helping trap wild boar, riding horse back for back country patrol, or doing search and rescue for missing persons. I used several of my own experiences in the story, tweaking them a bit here or there to fit with the flow of the narrative. This book is near and dear to my heart just as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is. Working there was the best job I ever had, other than writing of course, and I loved it. I hope my love of the park flows through my characters and spills out for readers to experience and enjoy.

My Review

One of my favorite vacation memories from growing up is staying at Lake Lure, North Carolina and visiting Chimney Rock State Park. I think that it is the only state park I’ve been to, but I would love to see the others, and revisit Chimney Rock, too, for that matter! I love the outdoors and rural areas, and although many people dream about the beach, my heart will always belong to the mountains and woods. As soon as I saw the title of this series, I didn’t hesitate to sign up to review it. That it was categorized as suspense was an added bonus.

Mountain of Peril is the first book in J. Carol Nemeth’s Faith in the Parks series. Taking readers alongside new ranger Molly Walker as she begins working at Deep Creek Campground in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, Nemeth generates interest in America’s national parks system. I do feel that the beginning of the book is a bit slow after a startling, intriguing first chapter. The narrative settles into a quotidian rhythm, describing some of a park ranger’s duties, and I was surprised to learn their extent. Their job is anything but boring, for anyone who has an interest in trapping, law enforcement, search and rescue, horseback riding, public relations, and a plethora of other tasks. Add to that the challenges of inclement weather and sometimes working in solitude, and I felt an even deeper respect for these public servants.

Regarding the characters, I enjoyed them and their interactions, but I still don’t feel as though I connected with them very much. They seem almost superficial in some ways. As a romantic suspense novel, there is naturally a romantic love interest, and along with this a heroine who is determined to remain dedicated to her career. Nemeth demonstrates that God has a plan for our lives, and that He is working things out for our good and His glory, whether we can see it or not.

The editor in me did pick up on various errors within this book, most of which concern proper apostrophe usage. There are also a couple of discrepancies, including the number of children that Cal and Pam have, and a time disparity. None of this detracts from the reading experience, and I would recommend this book to those who enjoy stories about the great outdoors, sweet and clean romance, and/or romantic suspense.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Celebrate Lit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.

My rating: 4 stars ♥♥♥♥

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, November 4

Bizwings Blog, November 4

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, November 5

For Him and My Family, November 6

Blogging With Carol, November 6

Texas Book-aholic, November 7

For the Love of Literature, November 8

Artistic Nobody, November 8 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)

deb’s Book Review, November 9

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, November 10

Betti Mace, November 11

Labor Not in Vain, November 11

Inklings and notions, November 12

Ashley’s Bookshelf, November 13

Mary Hake, November 13

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, November 14

Locks, Hooks and Books, November 15

Pause for Tales, November 15

Sara Jane Jacobs, November 16

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, November 17

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, J. Carol is giving away the grand prize a $25 Amazon gift card!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/10330/mountain-of-peril-celebration-tour-giveaway

Divide and Conquer: A Book Review of Bryan Litfin’s “The Conqueror”

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From the moment I saw this book, I knew I wanted to read it, and not only because the cover is beautiful and very well done. Despite being an avid historical fiction devotee, I have read precious few books about the early Roman Empire. In all honesty, it was not a time period that drew my interest until I took Latin in college; my immediate love of the language planted a seed of interest in the ancient culture that dominated the landscape of the early Christian church. Not often do I have the opportunity to review a book based on this era, after the Diocletian persecutions. As Bryan Litfin remarks in his Historical Note section at the beginning of the book, The Conqueror is not a biblical novel, but rather a historical one, which sets the scene for the entire story.

Perhaps because it is intended to be primarily historical, The Conqueror leaves me feeling conflicted and struggling to tease out my thoughts. Amazon does not list it among Christian fiction, but because it is published by Revell, that is what I would expect, and the book summary lends credence to this. My issue is that it reads like a secular novel, with too much focus on “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16). Flavia is a devoted Christian, yet she seems unable to truly defend her faith and answer Rex’s questions; granted, she is a teenager, but given her privileged upbringing and the amount of time she spends engaged in helping the church, this seems implausible. Similarly, I would have liked to see more dynamic characters. Here, evil is evil and it seems like a missed opportunity at times to test the characters’ ability to change in more deliberate ways. I do, however, appreciate how Flavia and Rex’s stories converge, leading to more integrations as the story progresses.

Covering somewhat less than four years, from October 309 A.D to May 313, The Conqueror is an epic novel of the fight between the authorities of the day and between polytheism and Christianity. I think that it is safe to say that politics haven’t changed much over the years. Power grabbing, scandals, affairs, assassinations. Let’s just hope that we never see a return of the amphitheaters! As for the Roman army, I find the thorough training of the speculators such as Rex and his best friend Geta both interesting and disturbing, because they are taught to kill without compunction if necessary. I understand this concept in a war environment, but it can be taken to excess in less dire situations. I will say, though, that Litfin excels at keeping the plot moving with plenty of action, adventure, and drama. I enjoyed learning about the catholic (universal) church at this time in history, and about the Empire’s journey toward Christianity. In the opening indices, Litfin includes a list of the major characters in his story who were actual historical figures, a Gazetteer of Ancient and Modern Place Names, and a glossary of terms, all of which enrich and inform the reading experience.

My overall impressions are that if you enjoy historical fiction set in the ancient world and are not disturbed by violence or sensuality, you may enjoy this book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell and was under no obligation to post a positive review. All opinions are my own.

My rating: 3 stars ♥♥♥

Buy your copy HERE

Breaking Point: A Book Review of Irene Hannon’s “Point of Danger”

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Very apropos for today’s security challenges and tumultuous culture, Irene Hannon’s Point of Danger goes beyond classic romantic suspense with a multifaceted plot and a complex array of characters. This is the first of Hannon’s books that I’ve read, and I love starting fresh with the first novel of a new series. I will admit that I was unprepared for what unfolded within these pages, but that is part of the experience and why I almost always prefer going in blind, so to speak. At first, I did have difficulty with the panoply of characters, most of whom entered into the narrative without introduction for reasons that become clear as the story progresses. As someone who has a terrible memory when it comes to names, trying to keep everyone straight did slow down my reading and cause confusion for me during the first half, but I trust that this will not be everyone’s experience. Some of their identities are not divulged until the ending, and I think that Hannon made the correct choice in her portrayals because I certainly did not guess who the perpetrators were ahead of time!

Hannon excels at recognizing and incorporating contentious issues into Point of Danger without over-politicizing them. Given that I read this in the days before the 2020 presidential election, that’s saying something. Heroine Eve Reilly, host of her own radio talk show, does seem to me to be a bit over-idealized; although I admire her character, she is written without any true flaws, and that makes her less realistic to me as a reader. The police detective, Brent Lange, on the other hand, not only has demonstrable flaws but also is willing to acknowledge them. The secondary characters are well-drawn, and their motivations authentic. As the plot wrapped up, I found myself completely taken aback by where things went, and I consider that a success on the author’s part. I appreciate Hannon’s positive representation of the police in this story, as well as Eve’s conservative viewpoints, which are clear but still respectfully presented.

At its heart, Point of Danger offers readers a glimpse into love found at the intersection of hope and fear. Whether it can or will prevail depends on learning to trust and to not give in to fear. As one of the characters advises, “In the end, though, you have to let people do what they’re called to do and put the rest in God’s hands. Once you manage that, life is much less stressful.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell and was under no obligation to post a positive review. All opinions are my own.

My rating: 4 stars ♥♥♥♥

Buy your copy HERE

The Red Ribbon Review and GIVEAWAY!

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About the Book

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Book: The Red Ribbon

Author: Pepper Basham

Genre: Christian historical/suspense

Release Date: October, 2020

An Appalachian Feud Blows Up in 1912

Book 8 in the True Colors series—Fiction Based on Strange-But True History

In Carroll County, a corn shucking is the social event of the season, until a mischievous kiss leads to one of the biggest tragedies in Virginia history. Ava Burcham isn’t your typical Blue Ridge Mountain girl. She has a bad habit of courtin’ trouble, and her curiosity has opened a rift in the middle of a feud between politicians and would-be outlaws, the Allen family. Ava’s tenacious desire to find a story worth reporting may land her and her best friend, Jeremiah Sutphin, into more trouble than either of them planned. The end result? The Hillsville Courthouse Massacre of 1912.

Click HERE to get your copy!

About the Author

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Pepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes romance peppered with grace and humor. She’s a native of the Blue Ridge Mountains where her family have lived for generations. She’s the mom of five kids, speech-pathologist to about fifty more, lover of chocolate, jazz, and Jesus, and proud AlleyCat over at the award winning Writer’s Alley blog. Her debut historical romance novel, The Thorn Bearer, released in April 2015, and the second in February 2016. Her first contemporary romance debuted in April 2016.

More from Pepper

Feuds, Moonshine, and Family Loyalties by Pepper Basham

My upcoming release for Barbour’s True Colors series is really close to my heart…and pretty close to my house.

The Red Ribbon, my first foray into a historical suspense novel, takes place in the county where I grew up. Carroll County, Virginia, is a county on the border of Virginia and North Carolina, not too far from Mt. Airy (Mayberry). Nestled in the foothills and mountains of the Blue Ridge, it is a part of the Appalachian Mountains, and with that comes similar histories as other backwoods Appalachian communities: feuds, moonshine, and family loyalties.

One thing I love most about my Appalachian upbringing is the intense closeness of family – and when I say ‘family’ I mean, of course, my mom, dad, and brother, but also my aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents…the whole “gang”, as my granny used to say.

The closeness of family, and the protection of the family name, is a big deal in Appalachia. There’s a lot of pride in the way your ‘name’ is thought of throughout the community, so when someone insults your name, there’s a good chance the repercussions aren’t going to be pleasant. Especially back in the early 1900s, when The Red Ribbon takes place. In fact, insulting someone by “stealing a kiss” is one of the events that leads to The Hillsville Courthouse Massacre/Tragedy.

A long-time feud between the Allen family and the “Courthouse Clan” came to a head inside the Hillsville Courthouse in March 1912 and this event resulted in the largest shootout within a courthouse in Virginia history. The story followed with a nationwide manhunt and made national news until the sinking of the Titanic the following month.

Growing up in Carroll County, I knew a few things about this story. Rumors and whispers, really. Most folks didn’t talk about it because it still caused a stir among those who were descendants (because another thing about Appalachia is that families tend to stay on or around family land for generations). People still took “sides”. So, when I decided to write this book, I knew I was stepping into precarious territory. Not that anyone would start up a shootout nowadays because of a book, but because people still have some deep feelings about how their ancestors are portrayed in history, and since many of my family members still live in Carroll County, I wanted to tread carefully into the events of “The Allen Tragedy”.

What I discovered was a story that still held a whole lot of mystery even one hundred years later. Bullet holes still mark the courthouse steps from that fateful day, rumors still circulate about who was to blame, and no one knows who fired the first gunshot that began the tragic shooting.

I’m not a “scary” book writer or reader, but I love a good adventure, so this book takes the reader on an adventure into Appalachia to my neck of the woods, and follows the journey of Ava Burcham and Jeremiah Sutphin as they live among the illegal moonshiners, dirty cops, and mountain gunslingers of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

(To learn more about the true events of the Courthouse Tragedy, you can read about it here: https://roanoke.com/news/virginia/the-courthouse-tragedy-gunfight-in-hillsville-in-1912/article_45d0d7f3-6e1f-57c4-83be-fceb3d98dafd.html)

Have you ever read a book set in Appalachia? If so, what was the title and what did you learn about the Appalachian culture? Have you ever visited the Blue Ridge Mountains?

Let’s chat mountain people, mountain ways, and mountain books 😊

My Review

Of the eight True Colors books published by Barbour thus far, this latest one by Pepper Basham is my favorite. The Red Ribbon is based on the 1912 Hillsville Courthouse Massacre in Carroll County, Virginia, an event unknown to me before reading this book. Nothing says historic Appalachia like a feud, and this story illustrates how deeply grudges run through generations and how it takes only one small spark to set them ablaze: “A terrible foreboding rife with long-held anger and blind rage breathed out from the crowd, with fingers from the past twisting half truths and hard hearts.” As a resident of northern Appalachia myself, I have always loved the rural and the rustic, preferring the backwoods over the city any day. Therefore, I was fairly certain that I was going to enjoy this book, and having no foreknowledge of the crime was an added bonus in the suspense department!

With skilled authenticity, Basham interlaces the historical record with fictional characters to create a tragic and inspirational tale complete with wholesome romance. As much as I love language, usually thick dialect distracts and even outright bothers me because it slows my pace and causes me to have to translate, but in this case it didn’t. None of the dialogue is at all difficult to figure out, and much of it reflects what I’ve grown up hearing, which lends it a comfortable familiarity. In this way and so many others, I feel a special connection with this book. I can easily connect with Ava Burcham and her fondness for writing, and with Jeremiah Sutphin’s bond with his dog, Wolf. The strength of family ties, whether biological or chosen, continues to be a mainstay for many in the Appalachian and other rural regions today.

Because the main characters are fictional, The Red Ribbon has an intriguing sense of unpredictability. Up until the final chapter or two, how the ending will play out is largely a mystery, which makes me appreciate it all the more. Basham explores the dynamics of mountain life, including tragedy and trauma and how they shape the characters in both the past and the present. The subject of faith comes up mostly with regard to Ava, for whom “God had always seemed so far away, so distant, from the shadows waving a sinister hand over the works of the world. She’d asked Him into her heart as a little girl, but with so much brokenness in her past, could she really trust Him with her future?” A struggle with which we all contend sometimes, trusting God comes more naturally when we go through difficult circumstances and, with each one, see how He provides for us and cares for us.

Epigraphs for each chapter consist of Appalachian aphorisms from either Granny Burcham or Granddaddy Sutphin; they set the scene for the chapter and impart mountain wisdom. A cast of characters appears at the front of the book, which can be very helpful but which does have some spoilers for the story’s outcome (particularly for those with no prior knowledge of this historical event), so read it with caution! Given how reactive some of the characters are, it is easy to draw parallels between the early twentieth century and the present. As Ava realizes, though, we all have a choice: “She could focus on the losses and pain, allowing those dark thoughts to color the filter of every other scene in her life, or she could choose thankfulness, gratitude, and the belief that God touched it all with hope—held it all—and never took His attention away from her.” Which will you choose?

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Celebrate Lit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.

My rating: 5 stars ♥♥♥♥♥

Blog Stops

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, October 29

Fiction Aficionado, October 29

deb’s Book Review, October 29

Blossoms and Blessings, October 29

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, October 30

Texas Book-aholic, October 30

Blogging With Carol, October 30

Inklings and notions, October 31

Emily Yager, October 31

Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, October 31

Hallie Reads, October 31

For Him and My Family, November 1

reviewingbooksplusmore, November 1

Christian Bookaholic, November 1

Betti Mace, November 2

Genesis 5020, November 2

For the Love of Literature, November 2

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess , November 2

Rebecca Tews, November 3

Robin’s Nest, November 3

Locks, Hooks and Books, November 3

Connect in Fiction, November 4

Older & Smarter?, November 4

To Everything There Is A Season, November 4

Artistic Nobody, November 4 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)

21st Century Keeper at Home, November 5

By The Book, November 5

Remembrancy, November 5

Ashley’s Bookshelf, November 6

Britt Reads Fiction, November 6

Life of Literature, November 6

Connie’s History Classroom, November 7

Splashes of Joy, November 7

Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, November 7

A Reader’s Brain, November 8

Sara Jane Jacobs, November 8

Through the Fire Blogs, November 8

Godly Book Reviews, November 8

Melissa Wardwell’s Back Porch Reads, November 9

Bigreadersite, November 9

Where Faith and books Meet, November 9

Books I’ve Read, November 10

Just the Write Escape, November 10

Adventures of a Travelers Life, November 10

Amanda Tero, blog, November 11

Musings of a Sassy Bookish Mama, November 11

Pause for Tales, November 11

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Pepper is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon gift card and a copy of the book!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/1032d/the-red-ribbon-celebration-tour-giveaway

A Longing Fulfilled is a Tree of Life: A Book Review of Amanda Cox’s “The Edge of Belonging”

If the story of my life could say one thing, I’d hope it would show the importance of venturing into the highways and the hedges to let invisible people know they’re seen and loved. To invite them in.

A breathtaking tour de force, Amanda Cox’s The Edge of Belonging tugs at the heartstrings and reminds readers that belonging goes beyond having a place to live to encompass the people who love us and, by so doing, help us to truly belong. Cox employs a split-time structure to tell Ivy and Harvey’s story, and what I love about this format is the short time lapse; the two main storylines take place in 1994 and the present day, creating a small generational gap that allows readers to follow the same characters from one period of time to another. For a debut novel, The Edge of Belonging hits the perfect notes, drawing all of the characters together in a symphony both heartwarming and bittersweet.

With this intricately nuanced cast of characters, Cox demonstrates her keen understanding of and insight into the human psyche. In the present: a broken 24-year-old young woman who does not know who she is anymore and wonders if she ever did. Twenty-four years prior: a homeless man with a sorrowful past who finally has solitude and routine until he finds a newborn baby. An older woman heartbroken from recent losses but with much love still to give. A couple aggrieved by their inability to have children. And the thread of hope and faith that binds them all together.

My favorite aspect of the characters is how they exemplify Jesus amidst their mistakes and brokenness and humanness. Pearl is a prime example of this, and she is my favorite character, despite my incorrect characterization of her when she is first introduced. As a result of this and of several scenarios in the narrative, I find The Edge of Belonging to be convicting. How often do we judge someone based on their behavior or appearance without making any effort to reach out to them or know them on a personal level? Pearl is one of the foremost characters who demonstrates openhearted compassion, which she sums up in a simple and beautiful way: “Nurturing is nurturing. It doesn’t take a blood relative. We’re all adopted into God’s family through Jesus. And I decided long ago that if it was good enough for God, it was good enough for me. So I set in my heart that I would love and mother anyone who crossed my path who needed that kind of love.

By far one of the best debut novels I’ve had the pleasure of reading, The Edge of Belonging gently speaks to many current issues, including PTSD, fostering and adoption, domestic violence, abuse, grief, and both platonic and romantic love. Most of all, it guides us toward the unconditional love of the One Who gave His life for us, and in Whose arms we will always find our place of belonging.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell and was under no obligation to post a positive review. All opinions are my own.

My rating: 5 stars ♥♥♥♥♥

Buy your copy HERE

Texas Holiday Hideout Review and GIVEAWAY!

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About the Book

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Book: Texas Holiday Hideout

Author: Virginia Vaughan

Genre: Christian Romantic Suspense

Release Date: October 1, 2020

When her identity’s exposed,

hiding on a lawman’s family ranch is her last hope.

After her mother is killed, Melissa Morgan’s shocked to learn she’s spent her life in witness protection. Now it’s US marshal Miles Avery’s job to keep her and her little boy safe. And with a mole in his agency, the only way to evade the killer is to hide Melissa on Miles’s family ranch…and pretend she’s his wife for the holidays.

Click HERE to get your copy!

About the Author

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Virginia Vaughan is a multi-published author of inspirational romantic suspense. Blessed to come from a large, southern family, her fondest memories include listening to stories recounted by family and friends around the large dinner table. She was a lover of books even from a young age, devouring gothic romance novels and stories of romance, danger, and love. She soon started writing them herself. A former investigator for the State of Mississippi, Virginia utilizes her criminal justice background with her love of writing to transform words into powerful stories of romance and danger.

More from Virginia

What if one day you discovered you were in the Witness Protection Program and didn’t know it?

This is the premise for my October book, TEXAS HOLIDAY HIDEOUT, which releases this month. My heroine, Melissa Morgan, learns she and her mother entered the program when Melissa was a child. Her mother never told her and, when Melissa witnesses her mother being murdered, she becomes the assassin’s next target. US Marshal Miles Avery steps in to protect the single mom and her son from a killer, but a leak in WITSEC leaves him with little options except to take his witnesses to his family’s ranch…and pretend she’s his wife for the holidays.

So, in celebration of TEXAS HOLIDAY HIDEOUT releasing this month, here are 10 things about the Witness Protection Security Program (or WITSEC) I learned during my research for this book.

  1. The program is voluntary. No one can be forced to enter.
  2. You can leave the program at any time—although it is not recommended.
  3. No person in the program, who follows the rules, has ever been killed.
  4. People entering WITSEC sometimes keep their same first name and/or initials so that if they mess up and start to sign their name, they have time to correct.
  5. Since WITSEC is a federal program, many states have their own programs to protect witnesses of gang or street-level crimes.
  6. If you get married while in WITSEC, you must lie to your new spouse to protect your true identity in the event the relationship doesn’t last.
  7. Protected witnesses are mostly criminals. Only about 5% are innocents despite the popular trope in movies and fiction.
  8. Local law enforcement may or may not be notified when a protected witness is relocated to their jurisdiction.
  9. Divorced, non-custodial parents have had their children hidden from them and now must agree to allow their children to enter the program.
  10. WITSEC protected witnesses are expected to eventually become self-sufficient. They do not get to live off the government for the rest of their lives.

Did any of these facts about WITSEC surprise you? I’d love to hear which ones. I had a lot of fun researching WITSEC for TEXAS HOLIDAY HIDEOUT. I hope you enjoy Miles and Melissa’s story! Look out for the next book in the series—middle brother Navy SEAL Paul Avery’s story—coming in TEXAS TARGET STANDOFF in March of 2021.

My Review

Book two in Virginia Vaughan’s Cowboy Lawmen series, Texas Holiday Hideout can easily be read as a standalone, although readers will not want to miss spending more time with the Averys in Texas Twin Abuction, which tells Lawson and his wife’s story. While I would not want my family to be comprised primarily of law enforcement agents due to the inherent danger, I do love reading about the Averys and how they band together and protect each other. Because they each serve in a different capacity, they have a range of knowledge and resources at their disposal, although this changes somewhat for Miles Avery when he is the US marshal assigned to keep Melissa Morgan and her young son safe within the witness protection program (WITSEC). Unable to trust his own agency due to the interference of a mole, Miles takes his two charges home with him under the guise of having married Melissa. What could possibly go wrong?

For some reason, I didn’t find this story quite as absorbing as the first book. I think that I was expecting there to be more about Christmas, given the title and official description, and the extent of the incidents occurring in the narrative became a bit numbing after a while. This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy Texas Holiday Hideout, because I did. I learned quite a bit about WITSEC, including that the majority of people in it are criminals and that no one who has followed the rules has ever been killed. I love the Avery family and how compassionate and openhearted they are, and Silver Star Ranch is idyllic. Vaughan skillfully demonstrates the emotions and internal conflicts of her characters, particularly noting how lying is part of witness protection and the implications this can have. Subsequently, trust is also a substantial issue. This scenario provides a unique opportunity for interweaving the faith element, which ultimately points to God’s sovereignty and to the precious truth of Romans 8:28 when Melissa proclaims, “If I’ve learned anything through this entire ordeal, it’s that, even though I couldn’t see God’s plan, He was working for me all along.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Celebrate Lit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.

My rating: 4 stars ♥♥♥♥

Blog Stops

Through the Fire Blogs, October 8

Genesis 5020, October 8

Hallie Reads, October 8

Artistic Nobody, October 8 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)

Through the Lens of Scripture, October 9

Texas Book-aholic, October 9

reviewingbooksplusmore, October 9

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, October 10

deb’s Book Review, October 10

The Cafe Scholar, October 10

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, October 11

KarenSueHadley, October 11

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, October 11

Older & Smarter?, October 12

Inklings and notions, October 12

Simple Harvest Reads, October 12 (Guest Review from Mindy Houng)

She Lives To Read, October 13

Hebrews 12 Endurance, October 13

For Him and My Family, October 13

Betti Mace, October 14

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, October 14

Locks, Hooks and Books, October 14

Ashley’s Bookshelf, October 15

lakesidelivingsite, October 15

Lighthouse Academy, October 15

To Everything There Is A Season, October 15

Sara Jane Jacobs, October 16

Blogging With Carol, October 16

Book Love, October 16 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)

Tell Tale Book Reviews, October 17

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, October 17

Batya’s Bits, October 17

Emily Yager, October 18

Labor Not in Vain, October 18

HookMeInABook, October 18

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, October 19

Mary Hake, October 19

Daysong Reflections, October 19

For the Love of Literature, October 20

Bigreadersite, October 20

EmpowerMoms, October 20

Blossoms and Blessings, October 21

Splashes of Joy, October 21

Pause for Tales, October 21

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Virginia is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon gift card and a copy of Texas Holiday Hideout!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/101f3/texas-holiday-hideout-celebration-tour-giveaway