Lady of a Thousand Treasures / by Sandra Byrd. (The Victorian Ladies series, 1) 4.30.2019

Tyndale ISBN 9781496426833

Adult Rating: 4

Award-winning author Sandra Byrd pens a new series set in Victorian England, rich in engaging characters and historical detail.

In Lady of a Thousand Treasures, Eleanor Sheffield is a talented appraiser of antiquities in her family’s business, but her unmarried status, her father’s passing, and her uncle’s decline puts the family business at risk. A wealthy client’s death offers her the opportunity to evaluate his collection to decide whether a museum should receive his collection, thus winning favor among potential clients, or allow it to pass to her client’s son, Harry, who broke her heart years ago. Mr. Clarkson, her father’s employee, has always been reliable, but when he tries to help her keep the business afloat, does he go too far? Can she separate the brass from the gold in the two men? Which one has her best interests at heart, and which is a knave?

Written in first-person narration, Lady of a Thousand Treasures is filled with elements of a Gothic novel–mystery, romance, and plot twists! Is Harry her happily-ever-after or a wolf in sheep’s clothing? Although the faith element is light, it is clearly evident and not preachy as Eleanor finds her Christian faith tested in her serious circumstances (dwindling finances, debtor’s prison, and more). As always, Byrd excels at the historical detail of art and antiquities during this period.

Recommended for public and church libraries. Fans of Bronte and Victoria Holt will especially enjoy this series, as well fans of the earlier books by Ms. Byrd.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Guilt by Association / by Heather Day Gilbert. (A Murder in the Mountains, 3) 4.29.2019

WoodHaven Press ISBN 9780997827927

Adult Rating: 4

Tess Spencer has faced her share of dangers solving crimes, but nothing prepares her for finding a dead teenager outside her mother’s trailer. Suddenly, the police are investigating the trailer park, Tess’s mother has disappeared, and her past as a drug-dealer makes her a prime suspect. Tess must face suspicion from locals who remember her mother, the drug world of her childhood hometown, and the neglect and pain of her past as she looks for the murderer.

Heather Day Gilbert creates an interesting contrast in this book, combining suspense and dark themes with a funny, female narrator who sees the harsh reality of drug addiction but also notices little things like nice clothes and good cooking. Since the story deals with broken families, there are references to profanity, drug addiction, and slight violence, but the author keeps much of the details offscreen or summarizes what happened instead of giving explicit details. Various characters find or point to redemptive ideas as the story goes along, and while the ending resolves things a little too quickly, the book as a whole gives an honest but hopeful look at surviving dark situations.

G. Connor Salter, CLJ

Until We Find Home / by Cathy Gohlke. 3.22.2019

Tyndale ISBN 9781496410962

Adult Rating: 5

Claire Stewart has no intention of shepherding Jewish-French refugee children to England in order to escape the ravages of WWII in Until We Find Home. She plans instead to rendezvous with her French boyfriend and continue their resistance and rescue work in France. However, when he doesn’t arrive at their meeting place on time, no choice remains but to accompany the children. Since her boyfriend is the one with the contact in England, Claire must come up with a plan for the children. The only person that comes to mind is Claire’s estranged aunt. When Claire meets her aunt for the first time, she finds her grieving her son. What do two, grieving American women have to give to children displaced from home and everyone they know and love? And what are they to do with the men who are complicating their emotions?

Cathy Gohlke brilliantly paints entire scenes with a few well-placed words. Her characterization pulses with authenticity, especially that of Claire. Claire seems completely human as she struggles through her faults and starts allowing God’s grace to work in her heart. A somber tone carries through the book as characters deal with the ugliness born of grief, war, separation, rejection and prejudice. However, the story is far from dark, because David Campbell and Dr. MacDonald share light, bringing both the love of God and love of their own to a place that desperately needs it. The children bring humor in the midst of their struggles. Tension in the tale comes mostly in the form of relational struggles as the plot gently unfolds, but moments of physical danger add momentum. Though rife with important, though non-preachy, lessons, the most important theme driving the characters and plot is discovered by Claire:

The great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference. God loves us because we are a self, because He is love and that love pours out onto us. (p. 388, in a letter from C. S. Lewis to Claire – may or may not be all C. S. Lewis’s words as per note on p. 411)

Kristina Wolcott, CLJ

The Bride of Ivy Green / by Julie Klassen. (Tales from Ivy Hill, 3) 3.21.2019

Bethany House ISBN 9780764218170

Adult Rating: 4

Award-winning author Julie Klassen concludes her Regency series set in the English village of Ivy Hill.

In The Bride of Ivy Green, the ladies of Ivy Hill face changing circumstances in their lives. Mercy Grove resigns herself to a spinster’s life after her school closes. Jane Bell must decide whether to give up her inn to marry Gabriel Locke. Miss Brockwell is being pressured by her mother to marry a certain nobleman in an arranged marriage. But what happens when circumstances change, bringing about the possibility of cherished dreams being fulfilled?

Klassen has written a fitting conclusion to her series; each book continues the story of the friends and village life. She presents endearing characters in her inspirational Regency novels. While The Bride of Ivy Green could be read as a standalone, it is recommended that one reads all three books in order. The faith elements are light-handed, as the characters face their new challenges in their lives and learn to trust God in all situations. Readers will appreciate the nod to Jane Austen, as well as the depth of the historical details, as they return to Ivy Hill, where “friendship endures, romance triumphs, and mysteries are revealed (back cover).”  

Recommended for public and high school libraries. Her novels appeal to adults and high school readers alike. Fans of Julie Klassen, Sarah E. Ladd, Carrie Turansky, and other historical fiction writers will be delighted to read this series.

Carol R. Gehringer, CLJ

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJThe Innkeeper of Ivy Hill (Jan/Feb/Mar 2017); The Ladies of Ivy Cottage (Jan/Feb/Mar 2018).

The Space Between Words / by Michele Phoenix. 3.20.2019

Thomas Nelson ISBN 9780718086442

Adult Rating: 4

Jessica is a victim of a mass shooting in Paris, France, and when she regains consciousness is confused and disoriented. Her friend Patrick seems to continue to be the rock he has always been for her, but is he really? Staying at a rural French B&B, her new friends help her regain some semblance of normalcy as well as assisting in her research to translate some very old documents she finds in a beautiful antique sewing box. Could these stories of Huguenot Protestants and their persecution help her to understand her own search for trust in a loving God?

The Huguenot accounts are inspiring and bring about a spiritual change in Jessica who is questioning why God would allow this type of massacre to happen.

The story is beautifully told with a rather unusual plot, but this reviewer did have some trouble keeping track of the Huguenot characters in their writings. The author could have made that a little easier to follow.

Ceil Carey, CLJ

Wait for Me / by Susan May Warren. (Montana Rescue, 6) 3.19.2019

Revell ISBN 9780800727482

Adult Rating: 4

Best-selling author Susan May Warren concludes her Montana Rescue series by portraying the turbulent relationship of Peter Brooks and Jess Tagg–and solving the mystery behind Esme Shaw’s disappearance.

In Wait for Me, Pete Brooks has been waiting almost a year for Jess Tagg to return to Montana–and to him. Has Pete finally learned to stop trying to be in control and let God be in control? Now he finally is ready to move on, and she returns to Montana, but is it too late now?

Meanwhile someone discovers Esme Shaw is witness to a long-forgotten crime. Jess and Esme are injured in an automobile accident in the isolated wilderness. Then they’re taken captive by that same person who wants to silence the only witness to his crime. Will they be rescued in time by Pete and the PEAK Rescue Team–or will a vengeful man’s actions cost Pete the life of a woman he still loves?

Warren takes her readers on an edge-of-your-seat-adventure as she tells Jess and Pete’s story. Characters from earlier books make an appearance, continuing their storylines. As always, the romance is clean, the faith is light but evident, with the tension building until its gripping conclusion. Wait for Me is filled with backstory which could be confusing because there is so much of it. However, it fills in the gaps if a reader hasn’t read the earlier books. Grace and forgiveness are interwoven through the storylines in this book. This is an action-filled romantic suspense the reader will not forget, and a fitting conclusion to this series.

Recommended for adult collections in public libraries.

Carol R. Gehringer, CLJ

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJWild Montana Skies (Oct/Nov/Dec 2016), Rescue Me (Jan/Feb/Mar 2017), A Matter of Trust (Jul/Aug/Sep 2017), Troubled Waters (Apr-Sep 2018), and Storm Front (reviewed above).

Storm Front / by Susan May Warren. (Montana Rescue, 5) 3.18.2019

Revell ISBN 9780800727475

Adult Rating: 5

Award-winning author Susan May Warren returns with the latest volume in her high-stakes adventure, contemporary romance Montana Rescue series.

In Storm Front, Ty Remington is determined to find his mentor Chet King as well as several students, all of whom are missing after a deadly tornado strikes. Not even the reappearance of his lost love–Brette Arnold–can sway him from his mission. Brette, a photojournalist attached to a storm chaser team, isn’t expecting to land in the small town at the same time Ty is in town, especially after she ran away from him over a year ago. Will facing their personal storms bring them together? Will they rediscover their future together before the summer of storms is over?

Warren creates realistic characters as she builds an action-packed adventure to tell the story. Meanwhile, characters from earlier books reappear and continue their storyline as Storm Front unfolds. Like her earlier works, Storm Front features Warren’s hallmarks of clean romance, edge-of-your-seat action, a faith element that’s not preachy, and relatable characters.

Warren’s characters in Storm Front face a summer of storms–storms of nature, spiritual, physical, and relational storms in their lives. Why did Brette run away a year ago? What is Ty running from? What will be learned from facing the storms? Warren’s fans will enjoy this latest addition to her Montana Rescue series. Readers will devour this new novel and eagerly look forward to the final book, Wait for Me (also reviewed in this issue).

Recommended for public libraries and church libraries.

Carol R. Gehringer, CLJ

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJWild Montana Skies (Oct/Nov/Dec 2016), Rescue Me (Jan/Feb/Mar 2017), A Matter of Trust (Jul/Aug/Sep 2017) and Troubled Waters (Apr-Sep 2018).

The Songkeeper Chronicles series / by Gillian Bronte Adam. 3.15.2019

Songkeeper / by Gillian Bronte Adam. (The Songkeeper Chronicles, 2)

Enclave ISBN 9781621840695

Song of Leira / by Gillian Bronte Adam. (The Songkeeper Chronicles, 3)

Enclave ISBN 9781683700869

YA Grades 6-8 Rating: 5

Gilliam Bronte Adams continues her young adult fantasy series featuring the requisite orphan heroine, grouchy adult figure, mythical creatures, and allegorical references to Christianity.

In Songkeeper, young Songkeeper Birdie and former street thief Ky are captives on a slave ship, and Amos manages to eventually rescue them. Ky leads his Underground friends to safety while Birdie goes on a journey to a mysterious spring that only the Songkeeper can unleash to defeat the final darkness. But Birdie faces doubts about her abilities and her role. Her capture by the Takhran causes her to face her greatest fear: she is powerless and the Song is silent. Will her friends–her protectors–be casualties in the battle with Takhran? What awaits them all?

In Song of Leira, Birdie retreats into the mountainside after her journey into the Pit and the battle that ensued. The casualty count was high, and she sang many to their final rest. This strengthens her resolve to fight evil, despite the cost, rebuilding hope in many. Ky enlists Birdie’s aid to free the captives from the slave camps, but Takhran has singers of his own leading his army. When all looks darkest, Birdie answers the final call.

Adams’ well-developed world includes colorful characters and incredible creatures. Her second book has several plot twists and ends on a cliffhanger. Unlike some trilogies, this middle book doesn’t suffer from being just a bridge between the first and third book–it is strongly written and darker than the first book, with appropriate violence. The third book is also tightly written, complete with a final battle. Birdie has grown tremendously since the first book, as has Adams’ writing. Birdie recognizes that the Master Singer has everything in control, even when things don’t make sense. Birdie and Ky respond by putting one foot in front of the other, continuing to do what they have been called to do–to “fight the good fight.”

Recommended for high school libraries, young adults, and fantasy fans. Songkeeper won the Gold Medal, The Illumination Awards in 2017.

Carol R. Gehringer, worthy2read.wordpress.com

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJOrphan’s Song (Jul/Aug/Sep 2017).

Prince Edward Island Dreams series / by Liz Johnson. 3.14.2019

Where Two Hearts Meet / by Liz Johnson. (Prince Edward Island Dreams, 2)

Revell     ISBN 9780800724504

On Love’s Gentle Shores / by Liz Johnson. (Prince Edward Island Dreams, 3)

Revell     ISBN 9780800724511

Adult     Rating: 4

Liz Johnson continues her contemporary romance series, set at the Red Door Inn on Prince Edward Island (PEI).

In Where Two Hearts Meet, executive chef Caden Holt is self-confident until she is asked to show a handsome journalist around. Adam Jacobs, an international journalist on sabbatical, is mistaken for a travel writer writing an article that will save the Red Door Inn. Caden is more at home in the kitchen than spending time with the handsome journalist, especially since she is a little overweight. Adam is attracted to her and enjoys her company. Caden struggles with insecurity and self-esteem, while Adam is weighed down with mistakes from the past. Can they overcome these challenges to discover a future together?

In On Love’s Gentle Shores, Natalie O’Ryan returns unexpectedly to PEI years after leaving it abruptly. She buried her past so deep that she appears to everyone as calm and self-controlled. Even her fiancé Russell Jacobs doesn’t know of her abusive family background. He surprises her with a summer vacation and fall wedding on PEI. Then Russell leaves for weeks during their stay, and her childhood friend Justin helps her continue with wedding plans. Natalie faces her past when her alcoholic father reappears in her life. Will Natalie marry Russell in light of her hidden past? Will the truth set Natalie free?

Johnson writes endearing stories with such descriptive detail that the reader experiences the beauty of Prince Edward Island. Her main characters are imperfect and in need of second chances, healing, forgiveness, and love. The faith element is evident but light-handed, as they learn to face their pasts and accept themselves the way God sees them. Then they are open to loving and being loved by others, and who doesn’t love a happy ending?

Recommended for adult collections in public libraries. For readers who grew up with Anne of Green Gables, it is a welcome return to the island. For fans of Becky Wade, Courtney Walsh, and Denise Hunter.

Carol R. Gehringer, CLJ

Earlier Series Titles Reviewed by CLJRed Door Inn (Oct/Nov/Dec 2017).

Just Sayin’ / by Dandi Daley Mackall. 3.13.2019

Tyndale ISBN 9781496423160

INT Grades 4-7 Rating: 5

Cassie Callahan loves big words, making witty remarks, writing letters, and avoiding her mom’s phone calls in Just Sayin’. With the way her mom and almost step-dad broke up, and worse, left town–one to California and the other to Chicago–Cassie has a lot to write about, and she doesn’t mince words. Cassie’s pen-pals include her pastor, her almost step-brother Nick, her almost step-sister Julie, her mom, Jesus, and Johnathan Kirby the star of Cassie’s favorite show, The King of Insults. The letters Cassie reads give her insight into the lives of her loved ones, but with her pastor’s guidance, Cassie starts to read the best “letter” of all–the Bible. The only problem with reading the Bible is she starts to wonder if her insults are wholesome speech. Since Cassie has a plan to reunite her mom and Travis, and that plan relies on her well-honed ability to insult others, God’s timing is just not good at all.

Through letters, Dandi Daley Mackall reveals the idiosyncrasies, deepest thoughts, and growth of her characters. Accessible writing for young readers doesn’t stop Mackall from including new vocabulary words and most of their definitions within the letters. The plot quickly develops as Cassie and Nick commiserate with each other about their disappointment in their respective parent’s decision to break up, and then move on to determining what they can do to change their situation–including entering an insult contest.

The first half of the book is filled with somewhat insulting and mildly disrespectful letters. While Cassie and Nick’s insults aren’t necessarily hurtful to each other, many parents may discourage this kind of speech in their children. Mackall handles the situation neatly as Cassie learns what the Bible has to say about speech. The theme comes sparkling through Cassie’s letter to Jesus, “Thanks for your letters and the other stuff in the Bible. I will never forget that one in Colossians, about letting my conversation be gracious so that I will have the right response for everyone.” (p. 178)

Kristina Wolcott, CLJ