The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories by Celeste Fletcher McHale (review by Cathy)

The Sweet Smell of magnolias

 

About the book:

 

Jacey met the man of her dreams a year ago—and hasn’t seen him since. Finally relocating him as the pastor at her best friend’s wedding was the very last thing she expected.

A year ago, Jacey was trapped on a rooftop during a flood with perfect strangers, including a family and a man named Colin. After two days there together, she had no doubt that Colin was the man of her dreams. When they were finally rescued he tucked his phone number into her pocket. But an accident with the rescue boat left her hospitalized with amnesia and PTSD . . . and his number nowhere to be found.

Now, Jacey has still only recovered bits and pieces of her memory from that time. She clearly remembers Colin—but not his last name or any other details that would help her locate him. She’s trying to immerse herself in the joy of her best friend’s wedding . . . when she looks up at the end of the aisle only to discover Colin there in the minister’s role. Shock is an understatement.

On one hand, she’s elated to see him again. And then reality sets in. She never intended to get married or have kids. And being a minister’s wife was definitely never on her list. Was Colin not the man she thought he was? Or has the amnesia changed her more than she realized?

With the typical wit and honesty Celeste Fletcher McHale is becoming known for, it’s time for Jacey to take a fresh look at her life. Could this string of unexpected events have been setting her up for something far better than what she had planned for herself?

Paperback, 320 pages
Published May 23rd 2017 by Thomas Nelson
My review (4-stars)
I had been eagerly anticipating this book after having read, The Secret to Hummingbird Cake by this author.  I was thrilled when I saw the cover of The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories and couldn’t wait to start reading it once I had it in my hands.
I have to say that it took awhile for me to become interested in the story of Jacey and Colin, but once I did, it became  a fast read.  I find authors humor very much  to my liking and that’s one of the reasons I enjoy work so much.  She infuses humor in the most serious situations.
My favorite character is Georgia, the best friend  of Jacey,  She really doesn’t pull any punches and will speak her mind, no matter what.   All of the characters have a lot to overcome in their lives and with faith anything is possible.
I found myself  laughing at times and  feeling a bit sad, too, which I consider that a bonus when a book can make you feel those emotions.
I received this book from the publisher and have given my honest opinion.

The Hideaway by Lauren K. Denton (review by Cathy)

The Hideaway

About the book:

 

When her grandmother’s will wrenches Sara back home from New Orleans, she learns more about Margaret Van Buren in the wake of her death than she ever did in life.

After her last remaining family member dies, Sara Jenkins goes home to The Hideaway, her grandmother Mags’s ramshackle B&B in Sweet Bay, Alabama. She intends to quickly tie up loose ends then return to her busy life and thriving antique shop in New Orleans. Instead, she learns Mags has willed her The Hideaway and charged her with renovating it—no small task considering Mags’s best friends, a motley crew of senior citizens, still live there.

Rather than hurrying back to New Orleans, Sara stays in Sweet Bay and begins the biggest house-rehabbing project of her career. Amid Sheetrock dust, old memories, and a charming contractor, she discovers that slipping back into life at The Hideaway is easier than she expected.

Then she discovers a box Mags left in the attic with clues to a life Sara never imagined for her grandmother. With help from Mags’s friends, Sara begins to piece together the mysterious life of bravery, passion, and choices that changed Mags’s destiny in both marvelous and devastating ways.

When an opportunistic land developer threatens to seize The Hideaway, Sara is forced to make a choice—stay in Sweet Bay and fight for the house and the people she’s grown to love or leave again and return to her successful but solitary life in New Orleans.

Paperback, 352 pages
Published April 11th 2017 by Thomas Nelson
My review (5-stars)

The Hideaway is an impressive debut novel with endearing characters, a beautiful storyline and a charming setting.  

I loved Mags and her granddaughter, Sara and could imagine each one of them during their time at the B&B at different stages in their lives.  Each woman seems to flourish there as they are surrounded by some unusual but loving people and where strangers become  lifelong friends.

I could feel at home there with the quirky characters and the welcoming feel of The Hideaway.

The author gives her characters humor, an inner strength but most importantly, heart.  There is an ease to this book that I found refreshing and added to my reading experience.  I really like the writing style of Ms. Denton and will be looking forward to more of her work.

This is a book that I will definitely read again and one I highly recommend. The Hideaway is already on my top 10 of favorite books for 2017. 

I received a copy of this book for free.  I was not required to post a positive review and the views and opinions expressed are my own.

 

My Daughter’s Legacy by Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould (review by Kristi)

my daughter's legacy

About the book:  Women of Unfailing Conviction

Virginia, 1864

Therese Jennings cannot abide the thought of her family owning slaves. When her wealthy grandfather dies during the Civil War, leaving his slaves and estate to Therese’s widowed mother, Therese flees to Richmond. There she works as a tutor by day and a nurse by night. But when trouble befalls her family, how can she reconcile her duty and beliefs? And where does James Talbot—a long-time family friend—fit in her broken world?

Virginia, present day

After years of substance abuse, Nicole Talbot’s life is back on track. She’s found work at an equestrian therapy center and returned to college with the help of her wealthy grandmother—but that help comes at a price. Nicole must decide between honoring her bargain and doing what she knows is right, even if that could mean losing her new start, her family’s trust, and a future with her handsome boss.

* * *

From the Christy Award-winning team of Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould comes a thrilling tale of two women longing to make the most of second chances and find true love at last.

Paperback, 400 pages                  Published July 1, 2017, by Harvest House Publishers

 

My review:  Reading this book was a bittersweet experience for me. I enjoyed the story and was excited to read it while being sad at the same time because this was the last book in the series. A series which I have loved from the beginning and wanted more of. My Daughter’s Legacy is a fitting conclusion to wonderful series.

I enjoyed the dual storyline/time period of this book. The present day story of Nicole mixed well with the Civil War story of Therese. Both are women who are stronger than they and others think they are. My favorite of the two was Therese’s story. As someone who likes stories set among the backdrop of the Civil War, this story was right up my alley. I thought the authors did a fantastic job of portraying what life must have been like during that time. I liked reading about Therese’s time as a nurse and her relationship with Dr. Alec Talbolt. Therese has a pretty rocky relationship with her mother and this was conveyed well, too. The tension between the two was almost palpable at times. Therese’s relationship with Michael was also interesting and kept me guessing throughout the book.

The pace of this book was great! I liked how the authors switched back and forth from Nicole to Therese. There was never a moment to be bored in this story. I couldn’t read fast enough to find out what happened. At the same time though I wanted to read slowly to enjoy the story. I also enjoyed all of the details in the story. It was so easy to feel as if I were a part of the story and to imagine each scene as it unfolded.

This book could be read as a standalone but I highly recommend reading the entire series in order. The present day story flows from book to book and in order to not be lost it would be best to read each book. Besides the stories are just too good to pass up!

I have really loved reading this series by these authors. Their writing is seamless and they are just really, really good at writing stories that readers can totally immerse themselves in. I am hoping these two will join together again and bring more great stories for us to enjoy. Fans of either author are sure to treasure this book. Fans of historical fiction will appreciate this book, too.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher and was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are mine.

 

About the authors:  Mindy Starns Clark is the bestselling author of more than 30 books, both fiction and nonfiction, and has received numerous literary honors, including two Christy Awards and RT Book Review Magazine’s 2012 Career Achievement Award. Mindy and her husband, John, have two adult children and live near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

Website

 

Leslie Gould is the #1 best-selling and Christy Award winning author of twenty-two novels. She received her MFA from Portland State University and teaches writing at Warner Pacific College. Leslie enjoys traveling, hiking, and history. She and her husband, Peter, are the revolving-door parents of four children.

Website

Weddings at Promise Lodge by Charlotte Hubbard (review by Cathy)

weddings at promise lodge

About the book:

Founded by the three Bender sisters, the Amish community of Promise Lodge is thriving–and growing. In fact, residents are thrilled to welcome a charismatic new arrival–one who may not just strengthen their faith, but put it to the test . . .

When Christine Bender meets widowed Bishop Monroe Burkholder, it’s love at first sight. But Preacher Amos finds him too good to be true, and is determined to find out what’s behind his sudden, unannounced arrival. Still, the colony needs a new bishop, and everyone is excited to have a younger, more progressive leader. As for Christine, Monroe returns her affection, but her bubble is soon burst with the arrival of a young woman half his age . . .

Leola Duff claims Monroe “ruined” her and she now intends to make an honest man of him. But throughout the process of discovering the truth, Christine never doubts that Monroe is the fine man she believes him to be–and never wavers in her faith that all will work out as it should. And when Monroe is forced to confess the truth before the entire congregation, he can only pray that open hearts and minds will prevail, allowing him a future at Promise Lodge–with Christine . . .

 

My review (5-stars)

One of the things that  I’ve liked about this series are the unconventional characters.

I’ve absolutely loved the three Bender sisters, Mattie, Christine and Rosetta. Their dreams of starting a new colony, with the help and spiritual guidance from Preacher Amos have become a reality with more people moving to Promise Lodge and starting new businesses.

They are warm and welcoming to everyone and have formed friendships with most of the new arrivals and their neighbors.

I found newcomer, Bishop Monroe Burkholder kind of off-putting at first, but after a few chapters I liked that he was a lot less stuffy than I’d expected a bishop to be and enjoyed his flirtation with Christine.

The arrival of Leola and Maria creates quite a bit of friction in and around the lodge as relationships are tested, but with faith and prayer things will work out the way they’re meant to.

There’s a busyness that I love at the lodge, wedding planning, wedding ceremonies, cooking, building homes and businesses and anything else that’s needed to turn dreams into reality.

I’ve been a longtime fan of the authors work so I’m not surprised that I’ve liked this series so much and I think other readers of Amish fiction will, too.

Don’t forget to check out the recipes included at the end of the book.

I received a complimentary copy of the book from Netgalley and have given my honest opinion.

 

Gladden the Heart by Olivia Newport (review by Kristi)

gladden the heart

About the book:  “When you have experienced the Holy Ghost as I have, you would see that it is difficult to turn back.”

When the lively fervor of nineteenth century revivalism endangers the staid customs of the Amish community in the lush but rugged Kishacoquillas Valley of central Pennsylvania in 1847, the Amish church must deal with a divisive question: What is a genuine spiritual experience?

The question turns personal when Susanna’s beloved cousin Noah begins preaching while under trances and even though he is not a minister he gives long sermons that attract increasing attention. Curious, she helps to keep Noah safe during his trances. At the same time Adam, Susanna’s intended, feels pressure from the bishop to speak out against the ways of revivalism.

Susanna and Adam are pushed to opposite sides of a controversy that threatens their traditional Amish faith..  Now they must grapple with whether love is possible…even if they come to different conclusions.

When Noah goes missing at a time of day when he often preaches while asleep, circumstances thrust community members with divergent opinions into a crisis that demands they recognize the humanity they share regardless of beliefs.  But can strong-held opinions be softened by the truths that shape their lives?

Paperback, 320 pages                     Published July 1, 2017, by Shiloh Run Press

 

My review:  I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the Amish Turns of Time series and this book, the fourth installment, left me feeling flat. What sounded like an interesting story turned out to be not as well executed as it could have been.

The premise of this story sounded very interesting to me: An Amish man who has “spells” and preaches even though he isn’t a preacher or minister. The effect this has not only on his family but on the church district and the relationships between the Amish and their non-Amish neighbors left lots of possibilities to be explored. However, I feel like the author left a lot on the table with this story. I wanted to see more of the conflict between the members of the church and their beliefs on why Noah’s “falling under” was wrong. Due to the fact that this story takes place in the 1800’s the main difference between Amish and non-Amish is their faith as they lived much the same. I felt like there wasn’t enough focus on the separation of faith other than the ministers reciting various Bible verses to prove their points. There was also too much repetition in the story and I felt like the story stalled because of this.

There are several characters in this story, most of which are Amish. There are two main non-Amish characters, Patsy and her father who is a Methodist circuit-riding preacher. Patsy is friends with Susana much to the dismay of Susana’s mother because they are Amish and she wants to keep a separation between the faiths. There is also a romance between Susana and Adam and there is conflict between them because of Noah and what each thinks they should do or not do to remain submissive to the church. Again I don’t feel like the author explored this aspect of the story as much as she could have. There wasn’t really a lot of depth to any of the characters and it was impossible for me to relate to any of them.

While this isn’t a completely horrible story there was a lot more the author could have done to explore the various aspects of the story. I would have liked to have seen more depth to the story and characters. A quicker pace would have been nice, too. Readers looking for a different kind of story may enjoy this one but for me, it just wasn’t quite what I was looking for.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.

 

 

An Amish Summer by Shelley Shepard Gray, Amy Clipston, Kathleen Fuller, and Kelly Irvin (review by Kristi)

An Amish Summer

About the book:

A Reunion in Pinecraft by Shelley Shepard Gray

When sisters Sharon and Sherilyn Kramer attend a wedding in Shipshewana, one of them returns with a new penpal while the other returns to her job at the bakery. After sending weekly letters back and forth, Sherry and Graham Holland arrange a reunion in Pinecraft. Upon Graham s arrival, however, he realizes he s been writing to the wrong sister. He decides to use the reunion as a way to get to know both sisters, but can he sort through the confusion in time to turn the worst vacation ever into something truly wonderful?

Summer Storm by Amy Clipston

Arianna is counting down the days until her wedding to Jesse. They have been friends longer than Arianna can remember, and that friendship turned into love over the past couple of years. But when Arianna s brother Tobias, who happens to be Jesse s best friend, gets them both into trouble, Arianna s father puts an end to her engagement to Jesse. Some summer storms pass quickly, but Arianna is afraid the damage from this one may be too much to repair.

Lakeside Love by Kathleen Fuller

Esther has always lived in the shadow of her beautiful younger sister Sarah. Even the boy she has known and loved her entire life, Judah, only has eyes for Sarah. But when a handsome young Englischer comes to live with the family for a summer, everything begins to change.

One Sweet Kiss by Kelly Irvin

Everybody in little Bee County, Texas, can see the obvious: Jacob King and Martha Byler are meant to be together. Everyone, that is, but Martha. Ever since her mother died when Martha was a young girl, she has taken over the role of caregiver to her large family. And reckless Jacob, who has had a little too much fun on his rumspringa, only seems to add to the list of people to manage. But one summer changes everything, and these two may just find a way to meet in the middle and share one sweet kiss.

Paperback, 400 pages                   Published June 6, 2017, by Thomas Nelson

 

My review:  Four wonderful authors with four uniquely great stories make up An Amish Summer. Grab a cold beverage and a comfy spot and sit back, relax, and enjoy!

I liked Shelley Shepard Gray’s story because it seemed real. I could see this as something that could happen easily and especially with the sisters having such similar names. I will say the name thing was a bit of an issue for me as I struggled to keep the sisters straight in my mind. I found myself rereading passages over just to keep everyone straight. Other than that I thought this was a great story and was an easy read.

Amy Clipston once again proves why she is a favorite of many readers with her story. I found myself cheering on the young Amish couple and hoping they would be able to work out their problems and find a happily ever after. This was a story I couldn’t put down. This story was perfect in every way.

Kathleen Fuller is a master at tugging at the heartstrings of her fans. She does it once again with a story that, quite frankly, I wasn’t sure I was going to like. Once I got into the story I couldn’t read it fast enough and was hoping Esther and Judah would become a couple. I was on the edge of my seat at times and at other times forgetting to breathe as I felt the emotions of these characters. Another perfect story.

Kelly Irvin has readers visiting the Amish of Bee County, Texas, which isn’t your usual Amish community. There were characters I really liked in this story and one, in particular, I just wanted to give a piece of my mind. This was a well-written story and one I found to be a quick read.

Fans of Amish fiction are sure to want this set of novellas for their collection. Four different stories in four different settings make this a perfect summer (or any time of the year) read. A definite must-read!

I received a free copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers and was not required to write a review. All opinions are mine.

 

About the authors:

Shelley Shepard Gray:

Since 2000, Shelley has sold over forty novels to numerous publishers, including HarperCollins, Harlequin, and Abingdon Press. She has been interviewed by NPR, and her books have been highlighted in numerous publications, including USA Today and The Wall Street Journal.

Under the name Shelley Shepard Gray, Shelley writes Amish romances for HarperCollins’ inspirational line, Avon Inspire. Her recent novel, The Protector, the final book in her “Families of Honor” series, hit the New York Times List, and her previous novel in the same series, The Survivor, appeared on the USA Today bestseller list. Shelley has won the prestigious Holt Medallion for her books, Forgiven and Grace, and her novels have been chosen as Alternate Selections for the Doubleday/Literary Guild Book Club. Her first novel with Avon Inspire, Hidden, was an Inspirational Reader’s Choice finalist.

Shelley also writes historical, western inspirational romances for Abingdon Press as Shelley Gray. Her first novel with Abingdon, A Texan’s Promise, was released in October 2011 and has earned glowing reviews.

Website   •   Facebook   •   Twitter

 

Amy Clipston has been writing for as long as she can remember. Her fiction writing “career” began in elementary school when she and a close friend wrote and shared silly stories. She has a degree in communications from Virginia Wesleyan College and is a member of the Authors Guild, American Christian Fiction Writers, and Romance Writers of America. She is the author of the bestselling Kauffman Amish Bakery series and Hearts of the Lancaster Grand Hotel series with HarperCollins Christian Publishing. Amy works full-time for the City of Charlotte, NC, and lives in North Carolina with her husband, two sons, mother, and three spoiled rotten cats.

Website   •   Facebook   •   Twitter

 

Kathleen Fuller is a best-selling author of Amish fiction. Also a wife, mother, crafter, coffee addict, football fan, and chocolate aficionado.

Website   •   Facebook   •   Twitter

 

Kelly Irvin is the author of more than a dozen Amish books. Her latest release is The Saddle Maker’s Son, the third novel in the Amish of Bee County series from Zondervan/HarperCollins,  released in June 2016. It follows The Bishop’s Son and The Beekeeper’s Son, which received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, calling it “a delicately woven masterpiece.” The Beekeeper’s Son is a finalist in the national ACFW Carol Awards Contest in the romance category.  She is also the author of the Bliss Creek Amish series and the New Hope Amish series, both from Harvest Housing. She has also penned two romantic suspense novels, A Deadly Wilderness and No Child of Mine.

Website   •   Facebook    •   Twitter