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

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).

Encyclopedia of Christianity in the United States / edited by George Thomas Kurian and Mark A. Lamport. (Five volumes) 10.17.2017

Rowman & Littlefield ISBN 9781442244313

Advanced Interest Rating: 4

Reviewing a multi-volume reference work such as the Encyclopedia of Christianity in the United States means examining the introduction(s), the contributor and editor lists, and select articles. Here they are, in turn:

Introductions

The two primary editors, George Thomas Kurian and Mark A. Lamport, have extensive experience in editing such works and show every evidence that they performed their task with professionalism and according to the methods standard for such volumes. They assembled a highly educated crew of editors and contributors.

Their overall introduction to this five-volume encyclopedia gives guidance to its structure and insights into its purpose. Importantly, they write that the contributors were purposefully selected from across the Christian theological spectrum and yet that “this Encyclopedia aims to present Christianity in the United States from a neutral perspective.” (xxviii) As children of particular Christian traditions themselves, however, Kurian and Lamport admit to necessarily using “emic” and “etic” anthropological perspectives—in other words, they are not neutral but are still trying to be. The reference is scholarly but is written by professors with genuine personal connections to the Christian faith.

(The editors also relate that a full 1800 of the 2825 entries are biographies.)

Contributors and Editors

Credentials are given for each contributor, and their qualifications are far from lacking. Few “big names” are listed—exceptions include David Dockery, John Fea, Nathan Finn, Michael A.G. Haykin, H. Wayne House, Timothy Larsen, David Naugle, Ron Sider, A.J. Swoboda, and Kenneth Taylor. Of course, Martin Marty wrote the foreword. The list of contributors has a notable but not overwhelming evangelical flavor.

Among the editorial advisory board are some prominentnames as well, including Ken Minkema and Doug Sweeney, both noted as experts in the work of Jonathan Edwards. Garth Rosell, Kate Bowler, Christopher Evans, and Justo González also appear.

A Sampling of Articles

Sampling articles throughout the volumes led this reviewer to one conclusion: aside from special introductory articles that were intended to be lengthy, the entries are admirably short, as are the bibliographies. “Word of Life,” for example, listed relevant dates and names and provided little in the way of interpretation. “Ladd, George Eldon” did give some interpretation, explaining briefly some of the major contributions Ladd made to 20th century theology. (1306) Michael A. G. Haykin’s article on “Packer, J.I.” is similarly not dry: it uses the “neutral” language of an encyclopedia entry, but anyone who knows the theological back stories will hear Haykin’s “emic” perspective underneath the surface. (1733) An entry on “Parochial Schools” offers—again, with admirable brevity—key history, some interpretation, current statistics, and even a section on “future challenges.” (1744)

A few oddities—topics left out, topics included—will occur in any such large-scale work, but this reviewer thought it odd that Christians for Biblical Equality had an entry (528) while its counterpart the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood did not. The Acts 29 church planting network was included (17), but there was no entry for Bob Jones University, whose story lasts a good deal longer and weaves in and out of American presidential politics and even Supreme Court Decisions.

Mark L. Ward, Jr., CLJ

Over Maya Dead Body / by Sandra Orchard. (Serena Jones Mysteries, 3) 10.5.2017

Revell ISBN 9780800726706

Adult Rating: 5

Sandra Orchard returns with a final installment in her Serena Jones mystery series, and this is the book her fans have been waiting for!

In Over Maya Dead Body, FBI Special Agent Serena Jones is on Martha’s Vineyard to celebrate the engagement of a family friend. Almost immediately she is embroiled in a murder investigation involving smuggling antiquities. In the meantime, her two beaus–Nate Butler and Tanner Calhoun–arrive to support her, keep an eye on her, and win her heart. Whom will she end up with? Will she uncover more of the truth before someone else is harmed? Orchard keeps the reader guessing on both the romance and murder/smuggling fronts.

Orchard uses a light touch in depicting the FBI, and does an excellent job in her character development. Serena is not looking for romance even though she has not one, but two, eligible bachelors: Nate (her building superintendent who is a kindred spirit) and Tanner (her mentor and former FBI partner). This is a mystery romance with plenty of twists –a delightful twist was asking her readers (after the second book) to vote on which suitor would win Serena’s heart!

Overall, the series has a very light romance and humor on the side. The faith element is light, but the series is a good, clean one with red herrings and suspects to delight any mystery lover.

Recommended for school and public libraries, for older teen and adult readers.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJ: A Fool and His Monet and Another Day, Another Dali (November 2016).

Then There Was You / by Kara Isaac. 10.3.2017

Bellbird Press   ISBN 9780473396534

Adult  Rating: 4

Kara Isaac returns with another contemporary romance, this one about an American and an Australian.

In Then There Was You, Paige McAllister wants to make a big change in her life. She flies to Australia, leaving behind a dead-end job in Chicago, a deadbeat boyfriend, and a music career she gave up after she was severely injured and her brother died. Struggling with the pain of her past (including her experience in a legalistic megachurch), Paige becomes the logistics planner for an Australian megachurch–the type of church she despises. But the job is only for six months, and will look good on her resume.

Josh Tyler is a member of the church’s world-renowned worship band. Neither of them makes a good first impression to the other. Josh, her boss’s son, is determined not to let this American get under his skin. She manages to disrupt his orderly life, and sparks fly! Having experienced heartache and loss, both close themselves off from being vulnerable with others. When they are thrown together to organize the band’s next tour, will they move beyond their preconceived notions and painful past to take a risk with one another?

Isaac pens another novel with endearing but flawed characters. Readers will empathize with Paige and Josh as they push each other’s buttons. The faith element is present but not overbearing. Then There Was You gives the reader a peek inside the inner workings of a megachurch. Isaac’s novels are lighthearted romances that will have the reader chuckling over the interactions of the main characters, as well as experiencing a range of emotions.

Recommended for adult collections in public libraries and school libraries; it is a clean read for adults.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com