Sunday, July 12, 2009

Grace note - apology

I want to apologize for the delay in publishing new reviews. The world went faster than I did. Hopefully, I'm back on the right track.

Also, I woud really appreciate any purchase you're willing to make on this web site. As you may have guessed, I'm still a bit new at this.

Thanks for your patience and patronage!

Hometown Courtship

Diann Hunt’s Hometown Courtship is about two losers. Wait! Not that kind of loser. Who wants to read about losers? Her two main characters both have recently lost loves; and predictably, those losses have hardened their hearts for any future hopes.

And our story begins. . .

For the moment, let’s forget that at least one of the main characters in most romance novels has lost a previous love or may even boast an entire litany of lost loves. It is that loss (those losses) that makes the overcoming to come that much more satisfying. But despite relying on this lost-love cliché for both leading characters, Hunt’s Hometown Courtship deals us an engaging read.

Callie Easton, had committed a crime. She had not only not paid her tickets, but she had lost the unpaid tickets. Now she stood before Judge Sharp for sentencing. He sentenced her to community service. She was ordered to report to Brad Sharp at the Make A Home project. It appeared that Judge Sharp was attempting to find a wife for his younger brother, again. Brad was tired of brother, Ryan, finding him women. He’d had some bad experiences and trust wasn’t high on his list.

Brad loved the Make a Home project and worked hard. His desire was to go to foreign lands and be a missionary builder. He wanted to keep his life simple. Just he and his dog. Why wouldn’t people leave him alone?

What lies in wait for the cute cosmetologist who doesn’t trust men, and the builder who wants to be alone with his dog and work as a missionary in foreign lands, and doesn’t trust women? That’s what this story is about. All the characters are likeable and all the pets are lovable. What lies in wait for you is a lovely story. It was a real joy to read!

Love Thine Enemy

Louise M. Gouge
Inspirational Historical Romance
Steeple Hill Books - July, 2009

Louise M. Gouge's "short biography" begins with the sentence, "When I was a girl, I had a plan." As a psychotherapist, I would term her girlhood plans "self-fulfilling prophecy." Except for a few unforseens, everything in Gouge's life turned out pretty much according to plan, except that her Love Thine Enemy is a fascinating departure from the traditioinal plan for historical romance settings. Yes, it’s historical; and yes, it sprouts a happy ending; but the setting, immediately before the American Revolution and in Florida, marks a fresh departure. The only other Florida setting related to the Revolution that I can recall was Mel Gibson’s movie “The Patriot.”

Rachael Folger and her father moved from Nantucket to St. Johns Settlement, East Florida Colony, in 1775. Those who settled the colony were loyal to the British crown. Those from the Boston area were patriots at least at heart if not for action. Rachael was definitely a patriot and tended to speak her mind. Her father worried that she would run off business. Mr. Folger had been a sea captain, but his health was failing and he could no longer take the hard work. His nephew now was captain of the ship making regular trips to England and back.

Frederick Moberly was loyal to the crown and was magistrate of the colony. He was also sweet on Rachael. Of course, Frederick operated at the pleasure of his father who owned the plantation that Frederick ran. He could see that Rachael was not apt to turn from her patriot ways. Would his father accept a patriot in his family? That was his dilemma.

A betrayal of Rachael’s trust drives a wedge between them. Frederick was left to scuffle with the meaning of faith in God and country. Rachael urged him to see life, liberty, and love through God’s eyes. He’s left to capture his faith and courage to keep his love and not let the war tear them apart.

This is a well done piece of early American history. The setting helps one feel the great distances in this new land. The characters show the difficulty of the time. It’s a wonder we turned out where we are today.

Healing the Boss's Heart

Valerie Hansen
Contemporary Inspirational Romance
Steeple Hill Books

With Valerie Hansen’s Healing the Boss’s Heart, the folks at Steeple Hill have launched a unique miniseries of romance novels they have titled After the Storm (a Kansas community unites to rebuild). All six books deal with how the people in High Plains, Kansas cope with the aftermath of a killer tornado, the worst one since “the big one in 1860.”

Healing the Boss’s Heart begins with the tornado scene, unsuspecting lives lofted into nature’s take-no-prisoners maelstrom. Hansen introduces the main characters as the life-threatening events unfold with a fury. Greg Garrison, a wealthy businessman in town, was thought of as being rather stiff and unreachable. The tornado made a rapid change in him. He rescued an orphan boy and even spent quite a bit of time looking for his dog. He made resources available from his hardware store to help out the people and the church.

Maya Logan, Greg Garrison’s secretary, was not only in shock because of the tornado but also by the changes in formal, sober, Mr. Garrison. He helped her and her daughter get situated with an open heart and kindness, expecting nothing in return. Others noticed the difference in him, too. Especially those who knew his father who was generally quite unpleasant and looked down on others, including his own son.

While High Plains, Kansas, had many losses from the tornado, it also experienced gains in the closeness and helpfulness of the people. Some good seems to come from everything.

While this series is tied together by the worst tornado since the Civil War, just like the cover illustration of Healing the Boss’s Heart, none of the titles trade on the storm’s inherent drama. The final book, Kathryn Springer’s Jingle Bell Babies, wraps the series in December with the storm nowhere in evidence. Just like with most good series books, the story in each novel appears to be dramatically valid in its own right. That means you can join the series in progress, with any title at any time; but if the drama of the killer tornado stirs your heart (no pun intended) and you’re intrigued how such an event might stir the lives of the people living in High Plains, starting at the beginning is never a bad plan.

The Preacher's Wife

Cheryl St. John
Inspirational Historical Romance
Steeple Hill Books - June, 2009

While I must confess that I run across periodic factual mistakes and illogical moments in many romance novels, the level of the writing itself is predictably good. The writing in some is remarkable. That’s the case with Cheryl St. John’s The Preacher’s Wife. Maybe that’s why St. John is a national award winner in both the contemporary and historical genres. Her proliference may also be a contributor. To date she has penned some 20 novels, though The Preacher’s Wife is her first Love Inspired Historical.

Regarding the word “proliference,” if novelists dare to write entire novels jam packed with a maelstrom of words, reviewers ought to have earned the right to coin a single word or two. If, because of my extensive reading, I have earned the right to critique our authors’ handiwork, my occasional coinage certainly invites equal time. Turnabout is fair play. (Not my phrase.) Tit for tat. (Not my phrase either.)

Set in Durham, Nebraska (1869), The Preacher’s Wife is a satisfying story with characters you really care about (about which you care?); but even the remarkable St. John is unable to dodge the “widow/widower syndrome.” I can’t tell you how many romance novels show their main characters embarking on take-two lives—all for generally good reasons, mind you (often with disarmingly cute offspring as plot points)—but it’s like our authors see richer possibilities in second-chance stories. For the record, however, I must say I can’t think of any third-chance romance novels, and I’m rapidly approaching my third thousand reads.

Josie Randolph was a widow. She’d had a rather unpleasant marriage and had no children. Her mother-in-law blamed her for that. Josie thought of herself as a helping person. Not a beauty. She longed to have a family but thought that would be impossible. Therefore, she kept busy taking care of the local preacher who had fallen off the roof of the church and had several serious injuries. While that was somewhat monotonous, she was diligent in her serving.

Samuel Hart arrived on the scene. He was the preacher sent to help Rev. Martin through his convalescence after which he and his family would continue west to his new assignment. His wife had drowned while traveling west. He and his daughters were grieving and having a difficult time of it. Josie helped them however she could and however they would let her.

The story is warm, real, and painful. She and Samuel grew slowly closer. His oldest daughter was hesitant to allow Josie to get close to her. She felt she should be the new mother. Thru good times and bad they each grew in their own way. Problems were present thru to the end of the story. But, you’ll love the ending! Thanks, Cheryl St. John, for an excellent piece of writing!