The Mistress of Tall Acre: A Novel / by Laura Frantz. 11.17.2017

Revell ISBN 9780800720445

Adult Rating: 4

The American Revolution has finally ended, but for 28 -year-old Sophie Menzies, the battle is far from won. Because her father was a Tory (though she is herself a loyal patriot), Sophie is in danger of losing her home at Three Chimneys. Alone–with her mother gone to Heaven, her father having escaped to Scotland, and no word from her brother whose loyalties are being questioned–how can Sophie save her home? The only solution to her problems may just rest in the hands of her widowed neighbor General Seamus Ogilvy, newly returned home an American hero with a young daughter to raise. She needs his financial support as well as his political influence to save her home, and he needs a mother for his daughter.

Will a marriage of convenience solve both their problems? Can two broken people find healing together? Just when it seems that happily ever after might be attained, a visitor from the past threatens to tear the new family apart.

Laura Frantz’s The Mistress of Tall Acre is a beautiful story of love and restoration that will sweep readers off their feet. The plot builds suspense with the intrigue of secrets and spies all culminating into a surprising twist. The main characters are full of depth and their own authentic charm. Sophie has a tender, compassionate heart and a giving nature; however, she is strong in her convictions and loyalty. Seamus has a hardened intensity about him, a result of his personal losses and years away at war. At times, his actions and words are insensitive if not hurtful, yet he is a protector by nature who learns to open his heart again. For both characters, their story is one of finding and coming home, with heartaches and joys along the way. The relationships in this story, both the developing romance between the main characters and their parental bonds with Lily Cate, possess a poignant sweetness and devotion. The final chapters paint a message that truth brings freedom and with it hope for the future.

Justina McBride, CLJ

A Love So True / by Melissa Jagears. (Teaville Moral Society, 2) 11.13.2017

Bethany House ISBN 9780764217524

Adult Rating: 4

Award-winning author Melissa Jagears continues her historical fiction series set in Kansas during the early 1900s.

In A Love So True, Evelyn Wisely works at the Teaville mansion that rescues children from the red-light district, but her heart is for the women who live there as well. She wants to help them escape poverty and prostitution. To do that, she needs the support of local businessmen to fund her work. David Kingsman comes to Teaville to rebuild his father’s faltering factory business. His intent was to stay only as long as needed to put the business on solid footing again, and then he would return to Kansas CIty. However, he is attracted to Evelyn. He shows interest in Evelyn’s work and wants to lend support, but complications arise.

Evelyn is compassionate and fiercely independent, holding others at arm’s length because of a secret she hides. When her secret is finally revealed, it causes a rift that threatens her budding relationship with David and any possible future together. The conclusion is a nice surprise twist.

Like Jagears’ other novels, A Love So True has solid character development, a clear faith element (without being preachy), and excellent historical detail. Characters from A Heart Most Certain (book 1) appear as secondary characters, continuing their storyline. It is refreshing to read a novel set in a time period and in circumstances not as familiar to readers. Jagears’ books are not just historical romance–these books deal with Christian charity, adoption, responsibility, compassion, and redemption in the community around them.

Recommended for adults and high school students in school and public libraries. Fans of Regina Jennings and Jen Turano will enjoy this series.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Currents / by Jane Petrlik Smolik. 11.1.2017

Charlesbridge ISBN 9781580896481

INT Grades 4-6 Rating: 4

On a planation in Virginia, 11-year-old Bones Brewster has spent her life a slave, serving a harsh mistress, longing for freedom. When a series of circumstances occurs that leads to hope and heartache, she discovers something that no one can take away from her, while an old bottle set adrift a river may bring its own form of freedom.

An ocean away, Lady Bess Kent longs for adventure, to explore the world as her father does far away from her manipulative step-mother. When she discovers a bottle that has washed up on her English shores, its mysterious contents provide an adventure all their own, as well as help in a time of need.

In Boston, Massachusetts, Mary Margaret Casey irons shoelaces for eight pennies a week and, in her free time, fills a journal with stories about life and the people around her. Though she would love to be a writer, few options are open to a poor Irish girl, especially when any spare funds are needed to help her sick sister. When a shiny bottle catches her eye, Mary finds a valuable treasure inside.

In Currents, author Jane Petrlik Smolik presents a historically rich tale of three young girls living miles and an ocean apart, but whose lives and stories are intertwined and impacted by one bottle set adrift in the James River. The stories flow seamlessly from one to the other, with little reoccurring details (such as Merry’s Museum Magazine and inspiring quotes from the philosopher Marcus Aurelius) that tie them further together and add historical authenticity. Black-and-white illustrations and brief descriptions signal the story shifts, and an epilogue at the end brings closure for both the characters and readers. Messages of courage, friendship, compassion, sacrifice, and forgiveness drift across the pages. Hard topics such as slavery and prejudices are presented with an age-appropriate honesty that stirs both outrage and empathy. A note of caution: there is a somewhat graphic description of a slave being beaten in the first story.

Justina McBride, CLJ

Where Hope Prevails / by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan. (Return to the Canadian West, 3) 10.31.2017

Bethany House ISBN 9780764217838

Adult Rating: 5

This series is delightful and Where Hope Prevails, the third book, is no exception. The characters are easy to connect with and very likable. Even Mr. Robert Harris Hughes, a type of villain in this story, will have one’s sympathy. This title basically stands alone, but being the third in a series, there are a few things the reader will not fully appreciate without having read the first two books.

When Beth Thatcher returns to her fall teaching job in her well-loved village of Coal Valley, she finds her life changed drastically. Not only does she have a new place to live and many topical changes in the town have occurred due to prosperity, but she finds there is now a second teacher who will share her responsibilities. And when she discovers that Mr. Robert Harris Hughes (yes, he always goes by all three names!) is not a believer, her hackles are raised and she is on the defensive.

Dealing with these changes and her upcoming wedding to Jarrick, Beth is struggling to keep her faith resting in the Lord and His all-knowing control. Her dear friend Molly encourages her, and when faced with a difficult decision, Beth is strong and decisive.

Highly recommended for fiction readers, particularly historical fiction.

Ceil Carey, CLJ

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJ: When Courage Calls (Sep/Oct 2014); Where Trust Lies (Jul/Aug 2015).

Chasing Secrets / by Lynette Eason. (Elite Guardians, 4) 10.30.2017

Revell ISBN 9780800723910

Adult Rating: 5

Award-winning author Lynette Eason concludes her romantic suspense series about an agency of female bodyguards.

In Chasing Secrets, Elite Guardian Haley Callaghan is a survivor of the streets. She channels that into her competence as a bodyguard. All of a sudden, Haley’s life is in danger when a cold case takes her from South Carolina to Ireland. What happens when the bodyguard needs a bodyguard?

Detective Steven Rothwell accompanies her as they chase down the secrets of her past. Steven is intrigued by Haley, but who has time for romance when lives are on the line? Who is preventing her from uncovering the truth with those attempts on their lives? Will they unravel the family secrets before it is too late?

As always, Eason is an excellent storyteller, weaving plot twists along with her development of complex characters. Violence in the story is appropriate but not too graphic. The book grabs the reader’s attention from the very beginning. The clean romance develops at a realistic pace, and faith elements are present but not overpowering. The theme of forgiveness and letting go of bitterness is central to this book. The plot twists will keep the reader guessing until the very end.

Some characters from previous books make an appearance, continuing their storyline. The Elite Guardian series titles are unique in that each cover features a woman carrying a gun. Fans will look forward to her next series with eager anticipation!

Eason’s newest series will interest fans of DiAnn Mills, Dee Henderson, Dani Pettrey, and Irene Hannon. Recommended for adult collections in public libraries.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJ: Always Watching (Mar/Apr/May/Jun 2016); Without Warning (Jul/Aug/Sep2016), and Moving Target (Apr/May/Jun 2017).

A Name Unknown / by Roseanna M. White. (Shadows Over England, 1) 10.27.2017

Bethany ISBN 9780764219269

Adult Rating: 5

Multi-talented author Roseanna White kicks off a new series set in pre-World War I (Edwardian) England, when loyalties to one’s roots were questioned as tensions between Germany and England increased.

In A Name Unknown, orphaned Rosemary Gresham grew up on the streets of London, doing whatever was necessary to survive with other orphans, who became her family. Her skills as a pickpocket and her ability to blend into high society get her recruited for a specific job: discover the true allegiance of Peter Holstein. Pete is the author of adventure novels written under a pen name, and debates changing his official name as others become more suspicious of his loyalties. Is he loyal to Britain or Germany–after all, he has a German last name and has the ear of the king? To prove his loyalty and his family’s innocence, he needs to find a family document for proof, but where in his vastly disorganized library can he find it?

Rosemary shows up unannounced, pretending to be a librarian and offering to organize his family’s library as well as trace his family history to prove his family’s loyalties. Will she find the evidence she needs to complete her mission? Who is trying to undermine Peter’s relationship with the king? Will Peter find the document in time?

White excels at both character and plot development. Her book is rich in plot twists and historical detail, as well as romance and adventure. The relationships are wholesome, making them “clean reads” for adults and older teens. The next book in the series, A Song Unheard, will be available in 2018.

 Highly recommended to public libraries and school libraries.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

If I’m Found / by Terri Blackstock. (If I Run, 2) 10.26.2017

Zondervan ISBN 9780310332480

Adult Rating: 5

If I’m Found is the second installment in Terri Blackstock’s If I Run series. It is recommended that one first read If I Run, as the second title continues the story begun in the first.

Casey Cox is a dangerous fugitive. That’s what everyone in the media and the Shreveport Police Department think, anyway. Despite rescuing a kidnapped girl in Shady Grove, Casey is still on the run from Detectives Keegan and Rollins, who want her for the murder of Brent Pace, one of Casey’s closest friends. In order to find evidence to prove her innocence, Casey has taken on a new identity and is following leads. Soon, she finds herself in a motel room in Dallas, Texas where she finds a Bible with a suicide note tucked inside. Hunting down the Bible’s owner, Casey learns of the man’s fate and ends up establishing a life in Dallas under the name Miranda Henley. When Casey finds herself in the middle of trying to solve the mystery of a little girl’s abuse, Casey again puts herself in danger of being discovered. Is it possible for her to stay hidden in Dallas long enough to find evidence that proves her innocence?

Dylan Roberts has known the Pace family since he was child. After Brent’s murder, Mr. and Mrs. Pace hire Dylan to find Casey. Dylan could have caught Casey in Shady Grove after she saved the kidnapped girl, but he purposefully let her go–because he believes she’s innocent. Dylan has to balance his loyalty to the Paces, his belief that Casey did not murder Brent, and his suspicion of Keegan and Rollins, whom he believes to be dirty cops. Dylan has God to rely on, and he fears that Casey will collapse because she’s trying to survive on her own.

Will Dylan be able to help Casey? Will Casey ever trust Dylan enough to let him in on her life on the run? If I’m Found is a riveting continuation of the plot of If I Run. In this installment, the characters are developed further, and the plot deepens to reveal the breadth of the scheme detective Keegan and Rollins have drawn Casey into. If I’m Found will leave readers impatiently awaiting the next installment in the series. Will Casey finally prove her innocence?

Dani Seilhamer, CLJ

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJIf I Run (Jul/Aug/Sep 2016).

The Devoted / by Suzanne Woods Fisher. (The Bishop’s Family, 3) 10.25.2017

Revell ISBN 978080072320

Adult Rating: 5

Upon return to Stoney Ridge In this third book of The Bishop’s Family series, Ruthie Stoltzfus, a young Amish woman on the cusp of leaving the Plain way of life, and Patrick Kelly, an Englischer on his own journey, are on a collision course to crash into each other. Ruthie has done all she can to pave the way for her departure but cannot make that final decision to go. Patrick, on the other hand, wants to live Plain and is attempting to learn all he can in a very short time span, especially relishing the time he can spend with Ruthie who is tutoring him. But there is another element afoot–Ruthie’s ex-boyfriend Luke Schrock who seems to attract trouble at every turn. He wants Ruthie back and is not going to let some Englischer fly-by-night step in and steal his girl.

As this is part of The Bishop’s Family series, the reader will be pleased to again meet up with familiar characters from the first two books, including the Bishop himself, a wonderful, godly man.

The stories of each of these three main characters are woven together beautifully. The reader wonders how the author can bring each of these plot lines to completion in a satisfying way and every time, Fisher accomplishes just this.

Ceil Carey, CLJ

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJThe Imposter and The Quieting (Apr/May/Jun 2017).

The Lost Girl of Astor Street / by Stephanie Morrill. 10.24.2017

Blink ISBN 9780310758402

YA Grade 8 and up Rating: 5

Stephanie Morrill, author of the Ellie Sweet series, pens her first young adult mystery, set during the Jazz Age, a time of citywide corruption due to the gangsters and of changes in women’s rights.

In The Lost Girl of Astor Street, motherless, 18-year-old Piper Sail is convinced the police aren’t looking in the right place after the disappearance of her best friend, Lydia, and begins her own investigation into Lydia’s disappearance. Friends since childhood, both girls grew up in Chicago’s affluent neighborhoods under the expectations of what that means for their lives.

Daughter of a well-known mobster attorney, Piper takes her search for the truth into some unsavory neighborhoods. But a handsome Italian policeman–Detective Mariano Cassano–is determined to keep her safe and find the answers to Lydia’s disappearance. As she discovers more about her father’s profession and connections in the city, Piper questions the detective’s family’s relationship with her father. Is she willing to risk her life to dig deeply enough to uncover the truth? Where do Mariano’s loyalties lie? Is his interest in her genuine?

Morrill delivers a gutsy, intelligent heroine, a twisting mystery plot, and descriptive historical details (the Roaring Twenties!). The faith element is light and the relationships are clean. The Lost Girl of Astor Street engages the reader from the beginning, keeping one’s attention until the very end. Piper embodies the changing freedoms and restrictions that young women were facing in the Roaring 20s. With its descriptive narratives and well-developed characters, this title will have readers clamoring for more mysteries starring this intrepid amateur sleuth.

Recommended for public and school libraries for high school, young adults–and even adults who enjoy a historical mystery.

Carol R. Gehringer, CLJ

Orphan’s Song / by Gillian Bronte Adams. (The Songkeeper Chronicles, 1) 10.23.2017

Enclave ISBN 9781683700289

YA Grades 6-8 Rating: 4

Twelve-year-old Birdie is haunted by the five notes of a beautiful song that continually come to her ears alone. She has never dared to sing the melody aloud or tell her secret to Madame, the tyrant she works for who already believes Birdie is nothing but a crazy, unwanted orphan. When she finally has the courage to sing the song to Amos, the peddler who has always shown her kindness, he warns her never to sing the melody again for it is dangerous and unnatural. Only moments after the final note fades from her lips, Birdie finds herself on the run from evil men.

As she tries to learn the truth about the song from Amos and those that aid her along the way, everyone seems to avoid giving her clear answers, whether out of protection or fear for what she is. Whom can she trust? Are the notes of such a beautiful melody truly to be feared and kept silent? Or is it, and she, the sole hope against a powerful enemy about to rage war on her land?

Orphan’s Song by Gillian Bronte Adams is a fast-paced, action-packed fantasy with page-turning suspense that will draw readers from the start. Complete with mythical creatures, talking animals, and a powerful sword, the plot holds true to its genre, while spinning its own unique twists and turns, presenting a fresh storyline and well-developed characters. The story is told from the alternating omniscient third-person point of view of Birdie, Amos, and Ky. Birdie is a timid orphan that has been beaten down her whole life but finally discovers the courage to give voice to the song that has always been inside. Amos is a fiery, loveable hero with a haunted past, while Ky is a brave, young thief with warring convictions and loyalty. A fight to silence truth and the few braves souls who dare to take a stand paint an age-old battle between good and evil. Overall, this first book is a great start to the series and is sure to prompt one to pick up its sequel.

Justina McBride, CLJ