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A Bride for Keeps, Melissa Jagears’ freshman novel and published by Bethany House, is the story of two people whose fears nearly keep them from a most precious love.

On the unforgiving Kansas prairie, we meet Everett Cline, confirmed bachelor and overwhelmed farmer.  Having been rejected by four fiances, three of them mail-order brides, Everett is finished with romance.  Fortunately for him, his best friend’s wife and neighbor, Rachel, has one more trick up her sleeve.

After corresponding with the beautiful, fragile Julia, Rachel determines she would be the perfect helpmate for Everett.  Bringing her to the small Kansas town of Salt Flatts was easy.  Convincing Everett and Julia to make their partnership into a marriage – not so much.  Julia’s past has left her dreadfully afraid of men, particularly tall, handsome, blond men who resemble her abusive ex-fiance.  Can Everett’s gentle, godly personality eclipse his resemblance to Julia’s abuser?  Will Julia’s rejection of Everett cause his already guarded heart to fully harden?

A Bride for Keeps is a gentle exploration of a blossoming love between two injured people facing not only the hardships of farming on a  desolate land, but also falling in love in a desolate world.  Melissa Jagears has cast an innocence over the entire novel, which may be enticing to many readers, particularly in the inspirational fiction category.  I prefer a grittier treatment of these subjects myself.  I also felt  as though the author brought us to the edge of emotion and sort of left us there as she switched scenes.  I never really became fully invested in Everett and Julia, and emotional investment in the characters is of utmost importance to me as a reader.

I give  A Bride for Keeps 3 stars.  Readers who like Janette Oke’s Love Comes Softly should find this book thoroughly engaging.

I received A Bride for Keeps by Melissa Jagears at no cost from Bethany House Publishers in return for an honest review.  My opinions are my own.

Amazon links on many of my posts are affiliate links.  When you purchase from Amazon after clicking there from my page, you are helping me to purchase goods to home educate my children.  Thank you!

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Before I read A Woman’s Guide to Fasting by Lisa E Nelson (Bethany House), I had never partaken in a fast.  Truthfully, the reasons and benefits of fasting were a little lost on me.  I had a hazy understanding of denying my physical needs to strengthen my spirit, communing with God during normal meal times, etc.  but no true understanding of the process, reasons, or benefits were clear until I got a hold of this gem of a book.

Lisa begins with a thorough explanation of exactly what fasting is – “a spiritual tool for spiritual growth.” (p.12)  She then goes deeper and explains five reasons why God commands us to fast: 1) Spiritual growth and overcoming sin.  2) Empower intercession.  3) Preparation for spiritual warfare.  4) Obedience to God’s call.  5) Response to a crisis.  In addition to fleshing out these reasons, in the next chapter, Lisa confronts some reasons why not to fast.  In a nutshell, fasting is not a magic trick to make God love you, but it can be a tool to put you in a place of obedience to Him.  The rest of the book is made up of quality advice on how to begin, follow through, and break a fast.

I really appreciate the depth of analysis, thought, and tangible guidance presented in this conversational book.  I definitely give A Woman’s Guide to Fasting five stars.  It is a must read for any woman who is interested in this spiritual discipline.

Disclaimer: I received A Woman’s Guide to Fasting by Lisa E. Nelson at no cost from Bethany House in return for an honest review.  My opinion is my own.

Throughout my post are Amazon affiliate links.  By clicking to Amazon from these links to make your purchases, you can help me to buy supplies to home educate my family.

Susanna Smith was raised to be obedient and merciful.  Unfortunately, her personality doesn’t lend itself to proper obedience and acceptable mercy.  When she finds herself needing to choose between obedience to not only her parents, but her king, and helping a runaway abused indentured servant, Susanna chooses to follow mercy.

In the process of sheltering Dotty, Susanna seeks the legal aid of Benjamin Ross, a local lawyer of poor beginnings.  Ben is a passionate man who seeks freedom and justice for even the most down-trodden in society.  Having been judged his whole life because of his family’s social standing, rather than their achievements and faith, Ben carries a chip on his shoulder toward the wealthy Susanna.  Much to his chagrin, he also carries a great attraction to not only her physical beauty, but also her quick mind and generous heart.

Tough decisions and tougher consequences are faced in Jody Hedlund‘s newest book, Rebellious Heart, published by Bethany House.  Once again, Jody has pulled from the pages of history and fictionalized a great couple from our past.  In this case, John and Abigail Adams.

One of the things I most appreciate about Jody’s writings, and Rebellious Heart is no exception, is her ability to explore deep subjects while weaving a beautiful, romantic tale with fully developed characters.  I always find myself thinking of the issues brought up in her stories as I close the last page, but I never feel preached at.

Of course, I can’t let this review go by without mentioning the innocent sensuality found in Rebellious Heart.  From foot measurements to stolen moments in a closet, the physical attraction between Ben and Susanna parallels and augments their growing emotional relationship.  I appreciate that more than a passing nod is given to the physical side of the developing love and the fact that the two stay innocent within that deepening attraction.

I give Rebellious Heart five stars.

I received Rebellious Heart from Bethany House Publishers at no cost in return for an honest review.  My opinions are my own.

Throughout my post are scattered Amazon Affiliate links.  By clicking to Amazon from my site and making your purchases, you are helping me to buy supplies to home educate my children.  Thank you!

Courtesy David C. Cook Publisher

Courtesy David C. Cook Publisher

Cora Deihl-Kensington has changed so much – and she’s not exactly certain she likes it.  Her father, Copper King Wallace Kensington, has grudgingly settled in allowing her the fortune due to her mama and the man who raised Cora.  But what does this mean to her future?  To Will’s future with her?

Glittering Promises, published by David C. Cook, wraps up Lisa Tawn Bergren‘s Grand Tour Series.  Just as full of breath-taking history as the first two books, Glittering Promises doesn’t shy away from either surprise or discomfort.

I give Glittering Promises five stars, but I will say that this book was more difficult, emotionally, for me to read.  Cora and Will, so happy and hopeful at the end of Grave Consequences, seemed to fall apart in Glittering Promises.  During several scenes, I simply had to close the book, because I was angry, disappointed, or heartbroken over the behavior of these characters.  Because these people on the page had become my friends, I had no choice but to open the book back up and deal with their emotions and impulsive choices.

I would say that is good writing, eh?  Don’t worry, without giving too much away, I can tell you that Cora comes to her senses in the end and all ends well.  Of course!  It is a romance novel, after all.

You can read my review of Grave Consequences here.  I do recommend that you read all three books in the series in order, to get the full effect of The Grand Tour series.

Do you like a book to entrench you so emotionally that you have a hard time dealing with the characters’ decisions?  What about endings?  Do you prefer neatly wrapped endings or ones that leave you wondering just a little?

I received Glittering Promises by Lisa T. Bergren free from David C. Cook, via Net Galley, in return for an honest review.  My opinions are my own.

Amazon links on most of my blog posts are affiliate links.  You can help me purchase supplies to home educate my children by purchasing items from Amazon after clicking there from my blog.  Thank you!

Image Dark Road Home book cover

Dark Road Home by Elizabeth Ludwig, courtesy elizabethludwig.com

He survived, barely, the latest attempt on his life.  Dumped on the doorstep of a church, still burning with anger and bitterness toward his sister and her new husband, Eoghan (Owen) Hamilton had only one desire continually cascading through his thoughts.  Get back in the Fenians’ good graces and win Ireland’s independence – through any means necessary.

She just wanted to stay buried, hidden from everyone, even God.  Ana Kavanagh still bore the scars -physical and emotional – of the dreadful night her mother and sister were killed as their home burned to the ground.  Having escaped both the house and the murderer, Ana made a quiet life for herself in America.

Eoghan and Ana soon realize that they are facing the same enemy and that the time of living on their own terms has come to an end.  Thrown together through power-hungry greed, they tumble into a love that will change them and their vision for the future.

Elizabeth Ludwig has crafted an excellent story in Dark Road Home, published by Bethany House and the second in her Edge of Freedom series.  This story of coming to terms with the events of the past and grasping onto the present is fraught with emotional turbulence and dangerous events – enough to keep the pages turning quickly and the lamplight on into the wee hours of the morning.

Though it is part of a series, and reading the first novel, No Safe Harbor, would be beneficial, the central story of Eoghan and Ana tidies up nicely, while still giving us a taste of the story to come.

Dark Road Home has not only earned five stars from me, but yes, also my “Enraptured Award”.  The “Rappie” (thank you, Julianna Deering) is awarded to those books that hold my interest well enough that I don’t turn to the end before it is time.  No sluggish middles, here.

web_EnrapturedAward

I received Dark Road Home by Elizabeth Ludwig free from Bethany House, via Net Galley, in return for an honest review.  My opinions are my own.

Amazon links on most of my blog posts are affiliate links.  You can help me purchase supplies to home educate my children by purchasing items from Amazon after clicking there from my blog.  Thank you!

Rules of Murder Book Cover

Courtesy Bethany House Publishers

I have a new hero.  Wealthy, bored, mystery-reading aristocrat Drew Farthering is the hero of Julianna Deering‘s novel, Rules of Murder, published by Bethany House Publishers.  Drew has everything a girl could want – good looks, charming personality, intelligence, a lukewarm understanding of God, dead bodies all over his property – oh, wait.  I guess those last two are a little off-putting.  But not to worry.  Before too long, the inquisitive Drew puts his armchair detective skills to work, joins forces with Madeline, the lovely, devout American niece of his step-father, and gets to not only the bottom of the murders, but also the center of Madeline’s heart and his own faith in Christ.

Julianna Deering has crafted an incredible mystery novel.  I am usually very critical of cozy mysteries.  Too often, the solution to the mystery is so far afield, the reader has no chance to solve it herself.  On the other hand, some are simply romance novels with a crime involved.  Ms. Deering falls into neither of these traps.  Not only is there the romance between the dashing Drew and magnificent Madeline, but the mystery unwraps perfectly.  When the responsible party(ies) (wouldn’t want to give anything away!) are finally revealed, the reader slaps her head and says, “Yes!  It was so obvious!”  But it really wasn’t until the reveal – the clues were there, but not blatant.  This is the perfect response to a well-written mystery.

I definitely give 5 full stars to Rules of Murder by Julianna Deering, as well as my {ahem} coveted Enraptured Award.  That’s right.  I read the book straight-through, without even one peek in the back.web_EnrapturedAward

Oh, did I mention the proposal scene?  {Swoon}

Disclaimer: I received Rules of Murder from Bethany House Publishers, via Net Galley, in return for an honest review.  My thoughts are my own.

Courtesy Bethany House Publishers

Courtesy Bethany House Publishers

I have been a Christian for nearly twenty years. In spite of the many sermons, teachings, readings, and viewing expounding on the Bible, I still have never quite had a grasp on the culture that Jesus lived in. I’ve never fully understood exactly what a Pharisee or Sadducee was. Who were Herod and Pilate and which one had more power? Who were the Samaritans, really, and why didn’t the Jews like them?

This incredible little book by William H. Marty, published by Bethany House Publishers, answers those questions and many more.  The World of Jesus gives the rich and often disturbing history of the Jewish nation during the “400 silent years” between the end of Malachi and the beginning of Matthew, then through to the final destruction of the Temple by the Romans in AD 70. While The World of Jesus answers many of those nagging little questions that I have while reading the Bible, it also provides the setting for the battles that the Jews faced as they risked cultural extinction from first the Babylonians, then the Persians, Greeks, and Romans.

Marty weaves the history of the Jews, from their captivity in Babylon through the total Roman rule, into the stories of the New Testament. This intertwining of the time periods sheds light on some of the more difficult passages of scripture. For example, I myself never understood Jesus’ reference, when dictating a message to be sent to Herod Antipas, to a prophet not being allowed to die outside of Jerusalem. Marty explains that the reference is from Herod the Great’s (Antipas’ father)execution of a Jew without the Sanhedrin’s approval.

The only thing that could have made this little book better would have been a few charts and maps to further help manage the incredible amount of information. Especially while dealing with the jumbled mess that was the Herodian era, I could have used family charts.

I give The World of Jesus five stars. It truly has opened my eyes to the cultural war that the Jews fought during the “Four Hundred Years of Silence” and how God allowed events to transpire in order to prepare the world for His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

**I received a copy of The World of Jesus by William H. Marty from Bethany House Publishers for free in return for an honest review. My thoughts are my own.**