From This Moment / by Elizabeth Camden. 1.30.2017

Bethany House ISBN 9780764217210

Adult Rating: 4

Artist Stella West has given up her dream of artistic success in London to hunt for her sister’s murderer in Boston. While the police and medical examiner swear Gwendolyn’s drowning was an accident, Stella insists on foul play. She goes undercover at City Hall to look for a man that Gwendolyn wrote about in her final letters.

Seeking the help of Romulus White, co-owner of the famous magazine Scientific World, Stella risks sharing her tale. As Stella reveals the tragedy of her sister’s death, confirmed bachelor Romulus sees an opportunity to trade his public influence for her artwork. Romulus is powerful, stylish, ornery–and handsome. Could Stella’s choice of involving him get in the way of finding the true killer?

Clues that indicate a cover-up surface, but the more Romulus gets involved with the whirlwind that is Stella West, the more trouble he encounters. If he pursues her wild story, it could mean the demise of his magazine and reputation. But if he doesn’t, Gwendolyn’s killer could return to finish off her sister.

Elizabeth Camden is a skilled writer who knows how to use her setting as a character. The ideas of the first American subway, snail mail, telegrams, and train travel play major roles in the plot of this novel. Her word choices fit the era, and her point of view changes between Stella and Romulus allow readers to see two unique perspectives as these characters come together to deal with their problems.

While the main characters both have bold and distinct personalities, their character development (apart from their affections toward each other) seems minor compared to the greater character arches found in the supporting characters, notably Romulus’s cousin Evelyn and her ex-husband. Readers will see multiple characters relying on God in their greatest moments of struggle for physical salvation and redemption of broken relationships.

Readers of romance, history, and mystery will enjoy the suspense of this dramatic narrative. As the plot unfolds, readers will love becoming pseudo-detectives with Stella and Romulus as they solve this murder mystery and deduce the killer’s identity.

Rebecca Schriner, CLJ

Come Rain or Come Shine / by Jan Karon. (A Mitford Novel) 1.23.2017

G.P. Putnam’s Sons ISBN 9780399167454

Adult Rating: 4

Author Jan Karon offers another winning story in Come Rain or Come Shine, the latest in her much-beloved Mitford series. In this touching novel, readers finally experience the long-awaited wedding of Dooley Kavanagh and Lace Harper. As expected, the ceremony is filled with simple beauty and deep emotion, along with a few down-to-earth surprises. Many favorite characters attend the wedding, which is a celebration of all that is good in life.

As always, Father Tim is the central, grounding figure in the story and other beloved characters continue being who they are and doing what they do best as well. As in the other Mitford novels, there is an underlying peace amidst a cast of characters who are simple and real and deal with all the trials and troubles life brings to all. No matter the challenge, Mitford’s characters survive and thrive by engaging their unique mix of humor and faith. And they always love their neighbors.

Central to this novel, which ties up several loose ends while leaving open the possibility of a continuing storyline, is the theme of love. As Lace Harper prepares for her wedding, she wonders aloud in her diary about the definition of cherish: “Fr Tim says he feels cherish is linked to ~ or perhaps best defined by the admonition in Romans 12:10: Outdo one another in showing honor.” (p. 92) As always in the Mitford series, the characters in Come Rain or Come Shine show what it means to honor both each other and God. And those characters who fall short find their way to some form of redemption. Readers who come to Mitford to find a place where neighbors are what neighbors should be and families overcome challenges to be what families should be, will be more than satisfied.

Valorie Cooper, CLJ

Earlier Series Title Reviewed by CLJSomewhere Safe with Somebody Good (Jan/Feb/Mar/Apr 2015).

Saving My Assassin / by Virginia Prodan. 1.20.2017

Tyndale House Publishers ISBN 9781496411846

Adult Rating: 5

It’s hard to believe that an 87- pound woman, just under five feet tall, could stand up to those intent on murdering her, but with God that is just what happened! As the author herself states, “I should be dead. Buried in an unmarked grave in Romania. Obviously, I am not. God had other plans.”

Saving My Assassin is Prodan’s memoir of her life in Romania from early childhood through her time as an attorney, fighting for truth and defying the “powers that be” in their evil regime. When she became a Christian as a young woman, she felt the calling to defend other believers and churches in direct disobedience to the government. She sought the truth in following her Lord. This was treason in the eyes of this régime under the rule of Ceausescu, and for her disobedience she was kidnapped, tortured, and beaten as well as placed under house arrest with her two young daughters.

Prodan’s writing is very simple yet profound as she shares her life experiences and the many ways that God answered prayer and kept her and her family safe. She also tells of a less-than-ideal childhood and of those who helped her escape and become a lawyer.

American Christians particularly should read this unforgettable account of Virgina Prodan’s life and God’s continued protection.

Ceil Carey, CLJ

Wild Montana Skies / by Susan May Warren. (Montana Rescue, Book 1) 1.19.2017

Revell ISBN 9780800727437

Adult     Rating: 5

Susan May Warren kicks off her new contemporary romance series, set in Montana and featuring park rescue professionals living in a close-knit community.

In Wild Montana Skies, Kacey Fairing moves to Mercy Falls, Montana to rebuild her life after her recent tour in Afghanistan. She is hired as the PEAK Rescue pilot for Glacier National Park. She also wants to spend time with her teenage daughter who has been cared for by her parents while she was deployed.

Country music star Ben King comes home after his father is injured. He is there to manage PEAK Rescue during his father’s recovery. Ben and Kacey were teenage sweethearts until Ben moved to Nashville to pursue his dream. Ben doesn’t know Kacey’s secret: Ben has a daughter he has never met. Now they have to work together to save lives. Will they find a happy ending in spite of old secrets and hurts they uncover?

Warren writes character-driven, contemporary books that are a blend of action and romance, as well as emotional and spiritual challenges. The faith element is evident but not preachy. More than romances, these are stories of flawed individuals with very messy lives and life-changing mistakes. God teaches them about forgiveness of others and themselves. Warren uses these imperfect lives to teach the reader about God’s gift of grace, and the strength it takes to live a life of faith and accept the second chance He offers. Readers can follow the characters introduced in Wild Montana Skies in subsequent books. Rescue Me (Book 2) is due in late January 2017.

Recommended for public libraries and church libraries.

Carol R. Gehringer, CLJ

Anchor in the Storm / by Sarah Sundin. (Waves of Freedom series, 2) 1.13.2017

Revell ISBN 9780800723439

Adult (HS) Rating: 5

Anchor in the Storm finds the United States involved in WWII. Lillian Avery leaves her Illinois home to accept a job as a pharmacist in Boston, Massachusetts, where her brother and his best friend Arch Vandenberg are stationed. Though Arch has expressed interest in Lillian, Lillian doesn’t seem to return his feelings. However, when both Lillian and Arch need answers about some questionable prescriptions, they find themselves working together to solve a mystery. In the process, danger threatens their lives, and the only way they can survive is by learning the truth of Hebrews 6:18-19, “…We might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast…” (p.66)

Sarah Sundin’s second book in the Waves of Freedom series is just as intriguing as the first. The plot moves quickly, part romance and part mystery. Arch and Lillian are well-developed, three-dimensional characters, learning to grow through their brokenness. Lillian’s determined mindset and plucky spirit set an intense mood as the story unfolds. Sundin’s portrayal of the places Arch and Lillian live and work as well as the activities in which they engage recreate a little slice of Boston during WWII. The theme is best summed up by Lillian’s father, “Jesus is your anchor, your hope in any storm, your sure refuge.” (p. 28)

Kristina Wolcott, CLJ

Reading the Sermon on the Mount with John Stott / by John Stott with Douglas Connelly. 1.12.2017

InterVarsity Press ISBN 9780830831913

Adult Rating: 5

John Stott (1921-2011) was a leader among evangelicals and is known for his preaching and communicating of Scripture. Reading the Sermon on the Mount with John Stott offers excerpts from Stott’s The Message of the Sermon on the Mount in brief readings, concise enough for daily digestion. The readings avoid technicalities and scholarly debate, with each reading emphasizing the substance, significance, and application of the text. Following each set of six readings is a discussion guide for use by individuals or study groups.

Stott makes clear that the Sermon on the Mount is Jesus holding up standards as principles of kingdom living. He also notes the goals of the Sermon are only attainable by those who have experienced the new birth and who have access to the Holy Spirit’s enabling power. The easy-to-hold size (5×7”) and short readings make it practical to really use as a daily tool.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ

Tangled Webs / by Irene Hannon. (Men of Valor, 3) 1.5.2017

Revell ISBN 9780800724542

Adult     Rating: 5

Award-winning author Irene Hannon releases the next installment in her romantic suspense series featuring the former military McGregor brothers as they settle into civilian life.

In Tangled Webs, Finn McGregor is spending a month in a lakeside cabin, recovering from a dangerous mission that ended his career as an Army Ranger. He hears his neighbor Dana Lewis screaming and runs to her rescue–the first of several disrupting incidents in the cabin she recently inherited from her grandfather.

As these incidents escalate and become more disturbing, it becomes clear someone wants Dana to leave the cabin permanently. Finn tries to help her as danger threatens the quiet hideaway, and deceit is found in even some local authorities. Can Finn help this damsel in distress while nursing wounds of his own? Will they find a future together when they face the demons of their past?

Unexpected plot twists are a Hannon trademark as the villain’s identity and sinister motives are unveiled. Hannon writes edge-of-your-seat inspirational romantic suspense that will keep the reader engaged until the final page. Hannon’s books are filled with suspense, romance, appropriate violence, and clean language. The faith element is light, not heavy-handed. The romance is clean and her characters are admirable but flawed individuals.

Highly recommended for adult collections in public libraries. Fans of Dee Henderson, Dani Pettrey, and DiAnn Mills will clamor for this series!

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJ: Buried Secrets (July/August 2015); Thin Ice (January/February 2016).

The Nikki Boyd Files series / by Lisa Harris. 1.4.2017

Vendetta / by Lisa Harris. (The Nikki Boyd Files, 1)

Revell ISBN 9780800724177

Missing / by Lisa Harris. (The Nikki Boyd Files, 2)

Revell ISBN 9780800724191

Adult Rating: 4

Lisa Harris has crafted two enthralling suspense novels in The Nikki Boyd Files series. This series follows Detective Nikki Boyd and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s newly formed Missing Persons Task Force.

Fueled by the ten-year-old mystery of her little’s sister’s abduction, Nikki diligently works to solve every case that comes her team’s way. In Vendetta, the first book in the series, Nikki’s day of rock climbing with her friend, Tyler, is interrupted when a 16-year-old girl vanishes while on vacation at a cabin in the woods with her brother and two friends. The next 48 hours have law enforcement scrambling through the Smokey Mountain National Park in search of the missing child. When evidence points to the abductor suspected of kidnapping Nikki’s sister, the case quickly becomes personal for Nikki despite the distance she tries to create. With a girl’s life on the line, Nikki has to push through her pain to help her team. Can they solve the case in time?

As readers learn more about Nikki and Tyler’s friendship, the romantic suspense begins to build and nearly explode by the end of Vendetta. This suspense is explored and built upon throughout the second book in the series, Missing.

In Missing, Nikki’s team takes on an unusual case when homicide detectives call them in to find a missing could who have disappeared after two men are found dead in their home. Are they guilty, or running for safety? That’s up to Nikki’s team to find out. When the search leads to Tyler’s boat, Nikki is desperate to prove her friend’s innocence. In just 48 hours, the investigation takes Nikki’s team deep into the pharmaceutical industry. Will the answers they seek ever be found?

The Nikki Boyd Files series takes readers on exciting, suspenseful journeys from start to finish of each book. The plots are wonderfully developed in both books, and Nikki’s backstory is revealed slowly, drawing readers in. The secondary characters are less well-drawn, leaving the readers wondering about details, which hopefully may be revealed in future books. Overall, with well-paced and exciting plots, Missing and Vendetta are entertaining, suspenseful must-reads.

Dani Seilhamer, CLJ

A Heart Most Certain / by Melissa Jagears. (Teaville Moral Society, 1) 12.28.2016

Bethany House ISBN 9780764217517

Adult (HS) Rating: 4

Award-winning author Melissa Jagears pens another historical fiction novel, this one set in Kansas during the early 1900s.

In A Heart Most Certain, Lydia King finds herself courted by Sebastian Little, an inspiring politician in Teaville. Lydia’s mother is getting sicker by the week, and her father’s debts are piling up. Marriage to Sebastian will secure her future, setting her dying mother’s mind at ease.

However, when Sebastian’s mother asks her to obtain a donation for the Teaville Moral Society from Nicholas Lowe–the wealthiest man in town–things begin to fall apart. At first Nicholas refuses, and then he agrees, as long as Lydia will agree to his own conditions. As they work together, they uncover Little family secrets that require them to expose the Littles’ involvement in corruption. Can they stand firm in their beliefs, even when it costs them that which they hold dear?

Jagears’ novel has excellent character development, a clear faith element (without being preachy), and solid historical detail. The relationship between Lydia and Nicholas builds slowly, as each grapples with their response to God’s leading them to confront the corruption of local politicians. The book’s focus is on rescuing those caught in the net of prostitution and helping them to build a new life in Christ. The reactions of the townspeople as Nicholas and Lydia try to help the former prostitutes mirror how the reader might react to anyone upsetting one’s comfortable setting, whether in church or elsewhere. Confronting evil and taking a stand takes courage, the kind that Lydia and Nicholas display.

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

Brightest and Best / by Olivia Newport. (Amish Turns of Time, 3) 12.20.2016

Shiloh Run Press ISBN 9781628366334

Adult Rating: 4

The Amish Turns of Time series tells the stories of struggling Amish communities trying to overcome and understand the divide between the settlements.

In Brightest and Best, Ella Hilty dreams of marrying Gideon Wittmer. She loves his three children and wonders why he hasn’t proposed yet. Unfortunately, outside elements are forcing Gideon to focus on other matters in the community. The English authorities enforce rules that the Amish children must attend the public schools, but the parents do not agree with this because they fear that the English do not know how to teach their children the Amish way of life. Some parents who do not abide by these new rules face being arrested and having their children taken away from them.

Margaret Simpson is an English schoolteacher who tries to listen to the concerns of the Amish parents. Because she doesn’t feel the English authorities are being fair, she works alongside the parents to help them convince the authorities to reconsider. The catch is that they must have a qualified teacher for the Amish children. So Miss Simpson tutors Ella to ensure that she is ready to take the teaching test.

The Amish families in this book are faced with problems they didn’t expect from the English. They can’t understand why the way they educate their children is being questioned. They have to enlist help from a lawyer which goes against their way of living. Even faced with ultimate consequences, they remain strong in their faith and continue to follow God’s will. Olivia Newport introduces the reader to the struggles that these faithful families face. Even though this is a series, each of the titles can be read as a stand-alone story. This third book is very well-written. Ms. Newport expresses the characters’ strong personalities by showing their devotion to their children’s education and willingness to endure ridicule from the authorities and community members.

Recommended for public and school libraries.

Trina Chase, CLJ